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The Parent That Made Us

August 18, 2020
Jean Mizutani
Community Voices
A daughter and her elderly mother pose for a picture at a restaurant. Smiling warmly.

When my brother and I were young, we didn’t understand why our mom would interrupt our chatter to ask, “How do you know?” We would shrug and say, “Everybody knows” or “I don’t know how I know.” The answer did not satisfy her and the question confused us.

My earliest memory is her telling me how smart I am. My brother and I were obviously brilliant. We amazed, we stunned, we thrilled! We always knew how proud she was of us. In fact, no parent could have been prouder. She was only 18 in 1952 when I was born–a loving, proud, smiling, attentive parent who was a protector, educator and playmate in one.

We got older and her question changed to “Who told you?”  Again, our answer, “No one. Everybody knows.” Our response was not satisfying to her. Our mom’s expression would change and we wondered if we had done something wrong. There was the time we tried to show her an address on a map and she suddenly erupted, obviously very upset. Bewildered, we guessed Mom might be “crazy,” which sadly reflects a lack of understanding of learning disabilities that continues to exist to this day. My daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability in 1994 and for the first time all of us recognized that my mother had one too. The lessons learned having both a parent and a child with LD have stayed with me.

Don’t operate under the assumption that everybody knows. Accept that people are unique individuals that gather and process information in their own way. Don’t jump to judge a person’s actions based on the gap between your expectations and their response. People are still using labels to explain discrepancies like “crazy,” “stupid,” or “lazy.” Don’t be one of them. Most of all, don’t allow your attention to linger on differences. If you take a closer look, you will see humor, bravery, wisdom–and someone who tries harder than you.