I have not been secretive about my dislike for the state of Mississippi. Most people know that I am a blue bleeding heart in a red state, that I am an atheist in the Bible Belt, and that I prefer progress to stagnation even if the progress is only for progress' sake. It does not matter that I have many diverse friends here in Mississippi and down I-10/I-12 into Louisiana, and it does not matter that some aspects of southern culture will always be in my blood. (Namely, y'all and sha baby will always be in my vocabulary and southern food will always be my favorite.) The truth is, I do not fit in here, and I do not have the energy, time, or knowledge to fight for Mississippi. Going to the capital with my picket sign, outrage, and loud voice was awesome, and I felt powerful...but then I felt defeated. When Mississippi consistently ranks last in all the good things and first in all the bad things, I feel defeated. I have a friend with a daughter with Down syndrome who has already fought with our school district, and trust me, this mom is a grizzly for her daughter, but she received slammed doors in her face at every turn. I can't. I really can't.
None of this, however, is really about me. This is about Trent, Layla, and Devon. Mostly Trent.
There is a list of the top 10 states for people with disabilities. (The list also mentions the bottom states. Mississippi has placed last three years in a row.) I can no longer allow Trent to grow up here, where resources are scarce, inclusion is not the norm, and the entire state's education is dead-last. So when I graduate in May, we hope to move to one of the states on the top 10 list. There are, of course, cons. We will be taking Devon, Layla, and Trent from the only home, friends, and school district they have ever known. We will be moving away from friends and family who give us love, emotional support, babysitting, fellowship, meals on Saturday, fun...just so many perfect moments. Trent's heart will be broken when he can no longer see his Pops, Golgie, Little Man, and Maggie, and their heart will break as well. We will no longer be a few hours from my father and my siblings. My heart will break for my kids as they move away from extended family. They do not understand that the services we get for Trent now will help his independence in the future, which is beneficial to all of us. Then there are logistics: selling or renting the house, jobs, moving.
Then there are pros: we are looking at states where people with Down syndrome are valued. Better education, inclusion, job opportunities, college programs, clinics specifically for Ds, a workable budget, and then for Tony and me, careers with advancement opportunities. Higher ranked schools for Devon and Layla.
Here is the crux: No matter what option Tony and I pick, we are hurting someone. If we stay, Trent's future is on the chopping block. If we go, his future becomes brighter, but everyone else experiences emotional pain. As any mother of a child with special needs can attest to, the child with special needs becomes the focus of the world, and because of this, everyone else's life is altered for the betterment of one. If I'm going to write out these feelings to stop the storm in my brain, I need to be honest: There is guilt in these waters, and I fear there will be resentment as well. Resentment of me, Tony, and most devastatingly, Trent.
I cried about all of this today. There are underlying disability, social justice, and cultural themes that make it much more complicated than what I can write here with the time I have allotted myself, and it doesn't really matter because I'm not willing to battle the entire state of Mississippi.
The words that keep circling, either because I'm trying to convince myself or others: I cannot sacrifice Trent.