Last week on one of our free to air commercial networks there was a fluff piece about a teacher suing the gov for damage to her voice - allegedly incurred as a result of 'yelling' at her students. It was a brief segment - one of the 'social commentators' on the 'news' panel - let it rip with a short but really ugly tirade against 'special needs' kids - 'these kids' - the 'r' word - the details aren't really that important - it was short and ugly and idiotic. There is a facebook group formed specifically in response to the segment and to stand up for our kids - this letter isn't for her.
That news story was depressing - but what happened on Fri night was definitely coloured by it.
I went to see Lisa Miller in concert at Newtown. While there I saw Murray of red skivvy fame down the back. (He has excellent taste in music btw - we also spotted him at Leonard Cohen last year). I felt myself thinking about the Wiggles then - and of our meet and greet with them about 12-18 months ago - at the theatre not far from where I was last night in fact. And I felt myself tearing up - and there were a number of thoughts running through my mind - the main one being about what a fantastic job those guys do in including kids of all abilities and needs - in a way that is respectful, compassionate and caring. Their integrity is impressive.
It isn't really the Australian way to go up to celebs that you see out and about - we try to keep it low key - especially as I know he lives in the area - he wouldn't want to be pestered everytime he went out. Still it played on my mind - how much it means to our families that such famous and wonderful kids music performers always find time to include our kids - not in a patronising way. In a real way. I thought of all the blogs I've read - and so many of them included a Wiggles concert - and a number of those included the 'meet and greet' - in fact that is how I found out about it - I asked other special needs mamas. They advised me to 'write a letter' which I did and then I got the phone call followed by the email. Before the concert we met the wiggles. Hannah and Kit were absolutely thrilled and to be honest - I was quite excited too!! It was a real treat - followed by a fantastic concert - and then lunch at a local cafe - a day I will always remember.
At the end of last night's show I pushed DH over to say thanks - which he did. Murray was as expected absolutely lovely - as DH said - "I have a 5 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. You met her for a photo opp before a concert last year - I just wanted to say 'thanks''. You could see his smile light up. I also got to chime in my thanks too - I couldn't really put evertything I wanted to say into words - I would have cried and the poor man was out and about enjoying his Friday night after all!! I am still not fully satisfied with my 'open letter' but such is the nature of owrds - it is really hard to capture everythiing I want to say with them. Still I have to try:
"Dear Murray (and the other Wiggles too!!)
I want to thank you for the joy your music brings to children and families. As a parent of a child with down syndrome I love seeing children of different needs included in your videos - in fact one of Hannah's friends appears in "Getting Strong".
I love being part of an online special needs community because as much as I love my daughter and rejoice in her accomplishments it can sometimes be very difficult and isolating - there is still so much prejudice and ignorance in the community about disability and difference.
I first heard about your 'meet and greets' on some US blogs. Each parent so happy and proud to show you their children - and to meet you guys. I asked Sheena of Sheena Time how she got to meet you - and so I did the same. Preparing the twins to meet you was a treat in itself. Kit drew a blue Mr Men style picture (cos that was his thing at the time!) for Anthony and Hannah drew a couple of pictures - one for Murray who she thinks is like her Dad (because he plays guitar too) and one for Sam. She forgot to bring them but was so star struck to meet you all in person she forgot to mind.
As we moved over for our turn - Murray came over and knelt down in front of her (boy he is so tall!), Anthony thanked Kit for the picture and held it aloft proudly making sure the photo worked. Jeff and Sam were smiling and relaxed. For our family it was a very special memory - so often our kids aren't 'seen' but you go out of your way to see them and show them to the world. I can't thank you enough for that.
So there you have it - the light in the darkness when people like Prue Macsween spout her poison is strong - and it comes from lots of different people...together we really are strong and that is what our kids deserve. In fact it is their right.