Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baby Burger

We were in the food court up in Sudbury, stopping for lunch on our day's journey. I wanted to roll around a bit, so Joe walked beside me as we chatted and shopped. It was a pleasant break from the drive. We picked up some small things for the kids and then decided to go for lunch. I knew what I was going to have, deciding as we rolled by the food court earlier on the Swiss Veggie Deluxe from A and W. Joe doesn't like A and W's veggie burger so he decided on quiche and soup. He waited in his line up, I in mine.

Once my order was placed, I rolled out of the way to let others place their orders. A mom and a little girl were in the line up. The little girl pointed at my wheelchair and said, to her mother's huge embarrassment, 'Look, a wheelchair.' I said to her, feeling like a kid conversation would add to the pleasant afternoon, 'Yes, that's how I get around.' She looked at me, pleased to be spoken to and said, 'Some has to push you.' I said, 'Well, sometimes, but mostly I push myself.' I slipped my gloves on saying, 'These gloves protect my hands when I push.' 'So you won't get blisters!' she added enthusiastically. Then I showed her how easy it was to push myself.

Her eyes widened and she said with hope, 'Is it fun?'

I told her that it was fun.

She grinned at the idea that riding a wheelchair was fun.

Mom as the passed by me to the counter whispered, 'I'm so sorry.'

'Don't be, I enjoyed the chat,' I said.

When we sat down Joe asked what I was talking to the little girl about, I described our lovely little chat. I felt bad that the mother felt she had to apologize when, in fact, I was thrilled she let the conversation happen. I'd much rather curiosity leading to questions rather than to stares. I'd rather a child ask someone in a wheelchair about life in a wheelchair rather than subscribe to the 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair' doctrine I hear so much. I like answering little questions about life in a wheelchair. It's a good life. It's a truth that needs to be shared.

When we finished our lunch we headed out of the mall. I saw her again, briefly, she smiled and waved. I waved back. She will now grow into her life. I hope it's one of questions not assumptions - and if she ever, ever needs a wheelchair to get around, I hope she has fun!


Joyfulgirl said...

Lovely! I'm glad that the little girl asked you that question and got such a great reply.

Anonymous said...

As a mom to a child with intellectual disabilities, I am often faced with his asking questions of people - he would have done the same as the little girl, and I would have been worried about an unintended slight too. Thank you for teaching this Mom that a simple question is better than us shushing and apologizing for our childs natural curiosity.

Brian Bickel said...

It's refreshing to see the innocence of a child. I hope that she can grow up and carry that interaction she had with you to help enlighten other people in her life to accept everyone the same.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

love conversation with kids. I love the lightness.

My godmother is a daycare mum for many children in my hometown and I love to spent time there with the little ones.

One day the play was a little wild and I had to get a rest because I was exhausted. One of the little girls (short before three years old) asked me "Why are you so tired and your lips are blue..." and I simply answered "because I have a hole in my heart" the little one was pausing for a short time and answered "and I have a hole in my tummy" - lifting her shirt and... pointing to her bellybutton.

Conversations with little children are great, they are not yet predjudiced!

Keep on rolling Dave.
Julia from Germany

Colleen said...

Dear Dave

What a lovely conversation. I think it will stay with that little girl and maybe even mellow out the mom too!


CapriUni said...

There is a distinct difference between the stares and questions from children, and the ones from adults.

It's taken me nearly a lifetime to put my finger on why questions from kids leave me feeling good, and similar questions from adults leave me feeling bad. I think it comes from the intent, which isn't spoken, but is felt:

Kids are asking because they want you to fit into their world, so they're forming the shape of their world through enquiry.

Adults ask because they've already decided you Don't Fit -- and they're either trying to fend off whatever "bad luck" you carry around with you (could what happened to you happen to me?), or they're actively challenging your right to be there.

CL said...

This post made me think about how as we grow up, we learn to view disability as tragic -- so many television shows and movies and newspaper articles about people bravely going on living despite their horrific afflictions. It's not something that people would automatically feel -- we learned to feel that way. And children haven't yet been exposed to as many of those messages, so they still have an opportunity to learn differently.

Cynthia F. said...

Fun! Based on what I've learned from reading this blog, when my 4-year-old points out wheelchairs or other mobility assistance aids, I now know to say "yes, that's how that person has their independence - s/he uses it to go to work or school, to visit friends and family, to go out and have fun." I love the way you've helped me contextualize and humanize and normalize disability for myself and for him.

Jen said...

Hi Dave
I've known of your blog for a long time through BBC Ouch, but never honestly took the time to read it properly, until now, and I'm glad I did :)
I do a lot of work educating children about disability awareness, and their questions are always fantastic. I've met so many embarrassed parents who can't get their children away from me quick enough when they say loudly "why is there a dog in the shop" etc. They are told to be quiet instead of actually explaining why I have a guide dog.
Parents need disability awareness training more than their children!

Noisyworld said...

I love kids when they're still full of wonder, they ask honest questions not ones cloaked in years of cynicism.
They also come out with true opinions, not those they think are expected of them. This tends to result in them telling me I'm silly- they're correct lol

Rachel said...

I've had parents thank me for being upfront with their kids and answering their questions and those parents usually look both relieved and embarassed at the same time. As if they didn't know what they'd say if the kid asked them about me after I was out of earshot.

"Hey, no big deal. She's just a kid. Kids are curious," I tell them. And they often look a bit surprised, as if in their effort to figure out how they can shape their kid's response to me, it being something to be matter-of-fact about hadn't crossed their minds. (I still remember a year or two ago when I heard the perpetual cry of, "Mommy, look at her!" and the response was simply, "Yes, honey, she's a little person." No drama. No embarassment. So nice to overhear!)

My favorites among the kids are the handful of little girls (it's always been girls!) who've asked me if I'm a mommy -- a reasonable question from a three-year-old whose interactions with grown women are with other kids' moms! I tell them, no, I'm not a mommy, but I am a grown-up woman like their mom. I love watching the wheels turn in their heads.

Heck, I'd be curious if I saw me coming down the street. I can't blame the kids.

Schmulie said...

What a beautiful moment.