Disabled and doing fine: I’m not in need of misguided affirmations

Hey, non-disabled peeps, disabled adult here. I’m not a child; please stop speaking to me like I’m in Kindergarten. Doesn’t matter what my disability is, it’s never okay to speak to adults like this. And I certainly don’t care about your hang-ups surrounding disability. Stop. Speaking. To. Me. Like. I’m. A. Child.

The school year is back in full swing. My kids are adjusting to the routine. With both boys in school this year, I have glorious time to accomplish what I need and want in a day.

But with the return to school, it’s also the return to dealing with ableism for me.

I walk my preschooler every day and pick him up at the end of the day. Every single day this past week, at least one fellow adult felt the need to, oh, I don’t know, I guess affirm me for completing daily tasks.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t ask for your affirmations.

No, sir, crossing the street was not a big chore. I do not need your encouragement.

Um, excuse me, ma’am, you may want to be grabbed if blind, but I do not, thank you.

Fellow parents, yes, I’m fine. Standing here, next to you, waiting to pick up our kids. Literally doing exactly what you’re doing. Yep, I’m good. Don’t need the worry in your voice.

I can hear it now. You’re wondering why I’m so enraged by people just being concerned. People just don’t understand; I shouldn’t shame them for ignorance. Why am I being a bitch to people just being nice?

Nice… Ick. I never want to hear nice and disabled in the same sentence again.

Nice is a word supposed to excuse your ableism.

Nice subjugates me, wanting me to feel bad when ableist comments and actions are perpetuated on me.

Nice places me in your tidy box, distinguishing me from you.

Sorry, I’m not excusing your bad behavior. And ableism is bad behavior.

And got some news: We are not different.

If you see me and assume my life is harder than yours because I’m blind, you’re ableist.

If you pity my life, and my kid’s life, because I’m blind, you’re ableist.

If you think tossing out crumbs of encouragement when you witness me doing things like leaving my house or crossing a street or using my phone is necessary and wanted, you’re ableist.

If you think we are two different types of humans and could not possibly have anything in common, you’re ableist.

Listen, I’m living my life here. I didn’t ask for your affirmations, nor do I want them or need them.

I don’t bumble through my life, hoping for non-disabled affirmations that I’m “doing a good job.” I’m a fucking grown-up who can take care of herself, not to mention her kids.

While I’m at it, yes, I can walk through the mall with my child and not get lost. I can also find the bathroom at the mall I frequent.

I’m not waiting around just hoping against hope you’re there to save me.

Want to not be ableist? It’s easy.

If you don’t think, say or feel things about non-disabled people, then don’t think, say or do things to disabled people.

It’s that simple.

And for the love of god, stop treating me like a child.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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