The Real Housewife (the unedited version…)

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Real Housewives reality show.  I watch them all and although I know it’s not “real”, I am drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  Watching these once regular people allow cameras to come into their home to film their every move fascinates me.  Although much of it is scripted, it’s inevitable that aspects of their real life shine through and the “real housewives” are left vulnerable to judgment, gossip, and scrutiny. Reality TV has become a big part of our culture and we are clearly a voyeuristic population. We also seem to have a strong desire to be “seen” as evidenced by our use of Facebook.  Posting status updates about where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with at every waking moment and, of course, only posting the most perfect pictures of ourselves.

My husband once told me “people only see what you show them.”  At the time, I found it rather comforting as I was trying to cope with Sydney’s diagnosis and I was very protective of what was happening to us.  I did not want anyone to see the pain and suffering that we were going through and I certainly did not want to share Sydney’s disability with anyone.  I even suggested to my husband on more than one occasion that we should move where nobody knows us.  Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me.  The need to preserve our privacy and shield my family from the judgmental eye of others was understandable and undeniable. 

This past summer I noticed a change in my ability to maintain our privacy.  There is a part of Sydney that has matured.  She no longer accepts being left out of the loop.  She wants to be a part of whatever is going on around her. She yearns to be social and has become very curious about the world around her.  Unfortunately, there is another part of her that still remains infantile in her mannerisms and gestures.  Her speech, although has greatly improved, continues to be difficult to understand and her response to chaos results in toddler-like meltdowns.  It is this dichotomy that draws attention to us.  Attention that I find very uncomfortable.  Sydney’s need to be included has posed quite a challenge for me.  Plain and simple when we are out in a public space there is no place to hide and the disability is on full display for everyone to see.

Simply put, I hate it.  I cherish my privacy and have found comfort at being in control at showing people only what I want them to see.  Who I am, how I parent, what our family struggles with, and who my daughter REALLY is have become apparent to everyone we meet.   I find it interesting that while I work so hard to protect my reality, these “Real Housewives” are so quick to let the world see all of their dirty little secrets.  I think that’s what draws me to the show every week.  I sit there watching with a look of shock and awe thinking, “Why? Why would you purposely put yourself on display like that?”  Of course these women are not only getting paid for their full disclosure they are also edited.  Bravo does an excellent job at showing its viewers what they want you to see and it really does make for very entertaining TV:)

My “reality show” is not edited.  It is uncut, it is raw, and it is real.  A simple trip to our local pool and everyone knows I have a special needs child who hits herself in the head.  Food shopping at the supermarket invites viewers to see and hear how cognitively impaired Sydney is just by listening to her speak and the questions that she asks the cashiers (over and over again…).  An afternoon at the mall allows hundreds of people to see that her behaviors can be loud, disruptive, and downright horrifying and there is not much her mother can do about it.  My outings invite judgment, stares, ridicule, and pity.  As a result I feel exposed, sometimes violated, and ultimately “on display”.

Early on I cared what other people thought but not anymore.  I no longer edit my life and only show people the perfect moments.  Special needs do not work that way.   The needs are real, they are honest, and they cannot be filtered.  Sydney is determined to be a part of this world and it is not fair of me to try and stop her. 

I have learned and accepted that I need to embrace being “real” and comfortable enough with myself to allow people to see that part of me.  I used to think that I was trying to protect Sydney but the truth is I was really protecting myself.  Shielding myself from pity glances and stares was about me not her. Sydney couldn’t care less what people think of her.  She is proud of who she is and loves to share her kindness with everyone.  She is incapable of being anyone but herself and never feels that she is something that should be hidden.  She is oblivious to glances and stares and only sees the good in others.  She enjoys being “on display” and loves when everyone notices her, in fact she insists on it.

I am not quite ready for Bravo to air my “reality” show, but I am ready to step outside my comfort zone and allow Sydney to be whomever she is going to be…. uncut and unedited.