When I began Maternity and Beyond, I always assumed I would end the column once Angus was able to read it—once he realized I was writing about him and wanted me to stop. Angus has been able to read my column for at least a year now, but he doesn’t want me to stop at all. He loves being the focus of a column. He claims to be famous because his mom writes about him in Island Parent. Also, he is quite certain that everyone he meets has read this magazine. While I’m always surprised when someone recognizes us—in the grocery story, in the library line-up—Angus fully expects to be known.
I began the Maternity and Beyond column two months before Angus was born, in April 2011. The title was fitting then. In the beginning I covered all the firsts that Angus experienced and that I experienced alongside him: first teeth, first steps, first words, first sickness. In those early years I often had people tell me how much they related to what I wrote, how it was exactly their experience also.
As Angus has grown up, the focus has become a lot more personal. I’ve written about our decision not to have more children. I’ve written about how I worried my anxiety was rubbing off on my kid. I’ve written about Angus’s autism diagnosis. These stories were less about common experiences and more about specific ones. And because autism is an experience that shapes our son, and shapes our shared world, it has gotten a lot of play: columns about his assessment, about the stranger who suggested we “cure” him with chelation therapy, about telling Angus about his diagnosis, about meltdowns and sensory issues and bullying and the struggle to find a school that fits.
Every anniversary mark I ask Sue, Island Parent’s editor, if it would make more sense for me to end the column. This is not what you asked for, I remind her. Not these diatribes on inclusion, not these whinging about the world not being set up to accommodate kids like mine. And every year she tells me to keep going.
I have decided to keep going, but to keep going differently, fully embracing the path I can’t help myself from veering down. This new column is called Diversabilities, named after a word on a T-shirt I saw at the Inclusion BC Conference. Superman symbol on the front, “diversability” on the back. If you think about it, trying to navigate a world that has been built for people with different needs and abilities than yours is a superhuman feat.
Diversabilities is about Angus and kids like him, who sometimes struggle to fit in, or to find their place. Maybe it’s also about your kid.
Though Angus loves to have a column about him, and though I certainly intend to write about him and our personal experiences, I want to include other stories. If you have a kid with a difference and a story to share, I’d love to talk to you about it. Rant about your challenges, but also tell me about your successes.
But I don’t want “Diversabilities” to just be about individual kids. It will also be about changes happening—in our neighbourhoods and little leagues and school playgrounds—to make our community more inclusive and accessible to all kids. If you know of such a change, have plans to implement one, or even just fantasies, let me know.
Thanks to those of you who have read some, or all, of the 80+ Maternity and Beyond columns I have written over the years. 80+! Admittedly many of those columns squeaked in well past deadline. Coming up with a new topic each month was a struggle. I’m looking forward to your help this time. And grateful in advance.
Laura Trunkey is the mother of the amazing Angus and the author of the story collection Double Dutch. Contact her at [email protected].