I had a very grumpy moment (well, more like extended moment) last night. This world is not helpful even in the least for wheelchairs and the differently-abled. Please, if you see someone with a stroller, wheelchair, cane, etc.. take the bit of energy and jog ahead to open the door. Even if you pass someone trying to get through a door you are not entering, how long does it take to hold it open, let them through and then go on your way? Two maybe three seconds? Pay it forward.
This week I did a few very simple things with Cara, grocery shopping and picking Natalie up at preschool. Throw in her kidkart (chair on wheels) and the simple becomes complicated. Cara and I became a spectacle. Lots of lazy smiles and concerning looks. That does not: A. make me feel better ; B. make Cara feel better ; C. Help in any way! Opening a door or moving to the side a bit so I can easily pass is worth a million smiles.
Here is what a trip to the grocery store is like for us: I am pushing Cara’s chair ahead of me with my left hand and pulling a cart behind me with my right hand. Cara is not able to sit in the grocery cart or in one of those handy-dandy back or front carriers. I leave my cart in a central location to push Cara and quickly grab what I need from the produce section and return to deposit my veggies. When I get back to my cart, all the while pushing Cara in her chair, I am greeted with an annoyed shopper because my cart is in front of the apples. I apologize, move my cart and am scolded with a half-smile and slight tilt of a head. Instead of simply applying the 1/2 pound of pressure and taking seconds to move my cart out-of-the-way, this individual stood there, with an annoyed scowl on their face, looking around and waited for me to come back. I don’t ask for help but I can’t care and think about healthy people who refuse to help themselves.
I use to carry Cara into Natalie’s school when picking her up in the afternoon. I juggle Cara, Natalie’s school items and Natalie who needs to hold my hand in the parking lot. Cara is not getting any smaller and is not able to hold herself. She is not a baby anymore. Cara is 2. It takes both arms and a lot of arm and back strength to accomplish a simple preschool pick-up. Yesterday I decided to put Cara in her kidkart to pick Natalie up. Well, I thought this would be easier. Not the case. This school doesn’t have automatic doors and has spaces that fill quickly with children and parents. I open the door, hold it with my back and pull Cara’s chair through the door, while parents just stand and wait for me (they don’t have their kids yet). I have to do this a total of four times (two doors in and two doors out). Luckily I have become pretty good at this. I can barely move 6 feet to tell Natalie that I am here because children are running around and colliding into Cara’s chair. All the while parents are chatting and completely unaware of where or what their kids are doing. Natalie is trying to open and hold doors for me, not because I asked her to (I didn’t) but because at 4 years-old she wants to help and is aware. Most would argue that this is something that she is accustomed to because Cara is her sister. Probably, however, she is 4 which includes the attention span that comes with being 4. She has only been alive for 4 years and is more aware of her surroundings than adults ten times her age.
I don’t blame a culture that is ignorant and uncaring. I blame a culture that is unbelievably lazy and unaware. People fill an elevator, circle and circle for closer parking (or take the disabled spot), use the button that will automatically open a door (meant for the disabled), leave a grocery cart in a parking spot etc..etc.. all because we are lazy. L-a-z-y! It is no wonder we are battling childhood obesity, our children follow our example.
Cara deserves to be out in the world like everyone else so I am not going to do the easy thing, hire a nanny and leave her at home. This is not a temporary phase for us. She loves the grocery store. She loves seeing all the kids at Natalie’s school. She enjoys going to dinner with her family. She doesn’t want to be a burden on her family or the world. It is not her fault that she is a burden, it is ours. It is our fault that the world is so hard to maneuver for the differently-abled. She didn’t ask to not be able to walk. No, we didn’t cause it, but we did create a world and culture that make it difficult for her to freely enjoy it. We did that and we can fix it. Cara is lucky to have Dan, Natalie and myself to help her. Imagine the world of a differently-abled person that does it alone? There has been times when someone has helped make the world a bit easier for us. Stop being lazy and pay it forward.
[I choose to use the term differently-abled because my child and all those like her, are not broken]