Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Baby Rides the Short Bus

My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with DisabilitiesMy Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities by Yantra Bertelli

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Perhaps my expectations for this book were too high. Or, perhaps I just went into reading this with a different purpose than what the book is meant for. Either way, I have to say, I was sorely disappointed. I had such high hopes. I had hoped that this book would address the reality of life with special needs, but also give a figurative high five to me...a pep talk of sorts...a "hang in there because life is good" type of book. In the introduction alone, I immediately started feeling bad and overwhelmed with my life. Instead of feeling uplifted, I felt a heavier weight, which was unexpected. For me, the tone felt bitter and angry. And I understand that, truly. Samantha's life hasn't been a walk in the park day in and day out, but I have tried to overcome some of those feelings and have tried my best to fill my life with light and love. And I felt very attacked for choosing to live that way. I believe the book is supposed to highlight lives from varying backgrounds, but instead, again I felt attacked for being a Christian woman who puts her trust in God, who doesn't live an "alternative" lifestyle as is so often mentioned, who likes the school my daughter is in and plans to keep her there, and and and. I was the type of person that these individuals often referred to who just didn't understand...the moms who were clean-cut, religious, and because of that seemed to just not get it. I often felt sad, discouraged, frustrated, and angry -- feelings I have tried to overcome -- while reading this. Even the contributors in the book who tried to lighten things with humor were often crude in their language and very sarcastic, still giving off that angry tone. It wasn't for me. I wasn't sure if the purpose of the book was to connect with other families with special needs, to buoy each other up, or to get a book out there to the rest of the world informing them of the difficulties of parenting special needs children. I'm still not 100% sure.

However, with all that said, I'm glad I didn't put the book down (which was my plan). Because as I read, I read about the unconditional love that these parents had. I read about how they are willing to do anything for their child. I read about happiness and victories. There were some entire pieces that focused on the joy of their children...but a majority was focused on the "dark side" with a final paragraph or sentence in there -- sort of the disclaimer -- "but I love my child with all my heart." And I believe them. That's not the point.

I believe there is immense value in sharing our experiences, good, bad, the ugly. But it was just too heavy for me, too discouraging, to read all in one book. Story after story, experience after experience, I just felt a weight that made me feel...icky...(how progressive is that word?). On the other note, a book that only highlights the joys and blessings of our special needs children may be too unrealistic or fluffy for others. And, therein lies the joy of books...and the freedom of reading what suits us.

Ultimately, I'm glad I read the entire book because I feel more informed about the literature that is already out there, and I know this book actually was a pretty big hit. Maybe that means my opinion is in the minority. And that's ok with me. I would hesitate to recommend it to everyone with special needs children as I believe it just needs to fit your personality and what you need at the time of your coping/healing/dealing process.

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