Monday, April 18, 2011

Who's confined?

I say this having chosen my words very carefully: I'm a bad cripple.

I must be, everyone seems to think so.

I could see that judgement, that sentiment, in the eyes of almost everyone yesterday. It started at breakfast. We'd gone to a very popular local restaurant and waited in line for a table. Once in place, once ordered and served, once the kids were done eating but we weren't done talking - I decided to make use of the large empty space behind our table. First Ruby and then Sadie, climbed on my shoulders and I held on to them with my hands and used my feet to spin the wheelchair around. They giggled and giggled and giggled some more. Each wanted turn after turn. I whispered to Mike and Marissa that I was the kids personal 'fairy go round', they giggled and giggled ...

On one of the rides, with Sadie on my shoulders I noticed the looks of others. I thought they'd be approving. I mean who could not find this unutterably cute? An adult having fun with kids having fun. We weren't making noise enough to be heard over the din of a full restaurant. We weren't in anyone's way. But, most of the faces were simply disapproving. We all noticed, save the kids of course who were way to focused on 'my turn, my turn, my turn-ing' their way through breakfast, the stares and the tut tutting. None of us could figure out why they were annoyed en masse or what it was they objected to. On our way out, Ruby had climbed on to the two foot petal thingies on the back of my chair and held on as I pushed up to the front door. At one time she loved pushing the chair, now that she's discovered that she can ride she prefers to hold on and smile at everyone like she's on a float. Again with the looks.

Then we were in the Rideau Center mall and at the top of a very long ramp. Ruby was on the struts at the back holding on tight. She loves going down ramps because we can get up to some considerable speed. I control the chair carefully, using my gloved hands as breaks. She screams in delight as we sail down the ramp. Sometimes she calls out 'faster! faster!'. This is the longest ramp we've ever done and the mall was busy. We waited til it was clear and Joe waited at the bottom to make sure people waited until we were down. Then I pushed and down we went. I concentrated hard on moderating the speed and Ruby roared approval behind me. As I slowed to a stop, I saw an elderly woman scowling at us with a face that would have been sweetened if she bit into a lemon. She muttered loudly about how 'inappropriate' what we had done was. I didn't get it.

Later on, on our way out. Ruby was again riding high behind me. We passed a fellow wheelchair user, he saw us and actually broke into a smile. When I went by, he said, 'That's how to do it, that's how to do it!' It was nice to get some approval. I don't know exactly what he meant. Was he referring to getting a child so comfortable with a wheelchair that it's a toy to her? Was he referring to being an active and fully participating part of a family? Was he referring to my Independence in pushing myself AND a nearly five year old child around? I don't know.

But I think he was approving of the 'way' I was being disabled. I was having fun in my wheelchair. And I think that's exactly what people were disapproving of. I wasn't being a pathetic, mournful, cripple. I wasn't being their stereotype and I think that bothered them. Let's face it, when people think I'm confined to a wheelchair - it isn't comfortable for me to be using it as a joy ride down a ramp for a kid.

Interestingly the kids around responded differently. While their parents disapproved of me, the other kids often envied Ruby and Sadie. When I was pushing out of the restaurant, one little boy, who'd been watching the girls ride on my shoulders and was now watching Ruby sail out of the restaurant, said to his dad, 'Dad, why don't you have a wheelchair too?' I wanted to turn and say, 'Now be nice to your Dad, poor guy is confined to walking.' 

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am sure that X will want a ride one day :)

KR

Kristin said...

I just don't get anyone having such a rigid view of things that they disapprove of an adult having fun with kids. I think it is brilliant that you are able to have such fun with Ruby and Sadie.

Susan said...

You and Ruby are ambassadors - out to change the world's attitudes - without even trying! I love it.

"a face that would have been sweetened if she bit into a lemon"...
What a picture! And,"poor guy is confined to walking.' GREAT lines!

Tamara said...

I kind of wish you would have asked them what their problems were. I can see a few chronically cranky people being themselves, but that much disapproval sounds like they need a community slap ... or maybe they just realized they were too big for a ride ...

Leslie said...

People can be such pills - don't let the grumps get you down. The girls are so lucky to have you in their lives!

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Your wheelchair holds potential that isn't possible for those of us "confined to walking" - love that line! I choose to believe all those disapproving starers were just jealous!

Colleen

Anonymous said...

the shoulder thing, sure, thats fun, no problem. The riding ont he back of your chair made me cringe as I read it. I had visions of kids on skateboards riding on the back of pick up trucks. My disapproval would have been purely a safety issue, what if she fell off? You don't very often see kids riding on grocery carts anymore for the same reason. They are firmly told to stop, It's not safe. She is behind you , you can't see her, you can handle a bump, can she?

Ruti said...

@Anonymous

Kids ride bikes. Kids climb tall play structures. Kids play soccer. Kids rollerblade (which leaves them *far* more vulnerable to bumps than hanging onto a wheelchair propelled by an expert user).

They aren't actually made of glass. Unusual doesn't mean unsafe.

And stopping kids from playing with carts is ridiculous.

Walrilla said...

You go, Dave! And Ruby, too!

And kids today are being "safety"ed right out of any fun and adventure at all!

Yes, I am a parent.
Yes, I care about my child.
No, I don't let her play in old refrigerators.

Really, people. (tsk, tsk)

B-)

Jen said...

Sounds like you and the girls had great fun. Pity the starers who have nothing better to do didn't see the funny side. That's their loss.

Rachel said...

We know those staring folks. We see them all the time when my son in his wheelchair shares the ride with his twin (with mutual consent). Shrug. That's how we roll.

Erin Beyko said...

You would have gotten a smile from me, I used to do the same thing with my brothers chair when we were kids. We even used to play bumper cars, he in his chair me with my dads pacesaver. Trust me 4 wheels wins over 3 anyday.
To bad more people don't follow your example, life should be fun!

Anonymous said...

How old is Sadie now? I didn't realize she was now old enough to start climbing people and wheelchairs!

As for the people who had such disapproving looks ... sometimes I just don't get people, and can't be bothered to try today.

Nan said...

Dave ... if you are in Ottawa, come dance with Propeller!!!!! Sounds like you are more than ready! Talk about having fun in a wheelchair (and out of, they are equal opportunity dancers!) And bring Ruby!!!! Now would be fun! see www.propellerdance.com If you would like to go, really, email me and I can get in touch with Renata or Shara or someone! My daughter dances with them in the performing group. rehearsals are Tuesdays!

Jay said...

Yeah for kids and fun! I'm a non-wheelchair using crip who got in trouble for trying to make toy wheelchairs as a kid to play with (my autistic brain was really excited about disability culture at the time, which has continued to be a passion)...in retrospect, they were not very safe.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Nan, I'd LOVE to take Ruby and Sadie to see you perform or even rehearse. We leave Ottawa tomorrow but will try to remember you for next time we are back! Sounds fun and great for the kids.

Anon, I am not insensitive to safety issues. I am actually uber-cautious. I won't let Ruby ride down with me on any ramps that aren't visibly smooth and I am very, very, good at controlling the speed. I know I can't guarentee that she won't ever fall or won't ever be hurt but I wonder how much more it would hurt to not be able to share something with me. No one would say that when she races pell mell with her mom or dad that she shouldn't run because she might fall. In fact I think of all the crazy things she likes to do ... climb, swim, run super fast, bike ride ... this might be one of the safest!

Anyways, thanks for the, mostly, support here. I needed to hear that really, it's just fun. It's nice, too, to note that other people have had similar experiences. That's what I like about 'blog world' ... finding out that 'no' after all, I'm not alone in here.

Susan said...

I wonder if the disapproving people were shocked that you were comfortable "in your skin". I mean, here you were being happy despite the fact that you use a wheelchair! Perhaps they feel that people who are disabled should not be happy with who they are?

Nan said...

Let me know next time you come back! There are kids classes too! And you actually should come and do a class. Just FYI there is a kids show coming up (Propeller Kids) at the Museum of Aviation theatre, May 15th, and the final big Propeller Show, that blows people away June 17th. That one is at the Shenkman centre. Info should be up on the website!
p.s. sometimes ANYONE having fun with children ANYHOW causes some people to look at you in a judgemental manner. I'm not so sure its the wheelchair part as it is the adult-having-fun part!

rental elf said...

Nice article,thanks for the information.

Noisyworld said...

I'm with Nan, people can be terribly disapproving when adults are having fun with kids, it's like they suck all the joy out of life :(
I think life's too short to not have fun, if it means I have to lie on the floor with my limbs in the air because I'm a dead antelope being eaten by Lions so be it lol

joyfulgirl said...

Strange to get such disapproval. I can't stop myself from smiling when I see children and adults at ease and at play. As Susan said, you are the ambasadors!

Liz said...

Interesting post -- I tried to imagine how people would react if there was no chair involved -- nothing with wheels, even. What if you were standing up in the restaurant, spinning the kids around? What if the kids themselves were standing in place, spinning? What if Joe had been at the bottom of the ramp, keeping it empty, while Ruby and Sadie held hands and ran down it, smiling, laughing and whooping it up?

I think they/you might have gotten the same looks. Some people have ideas about proper public behavior that don't include fun movement and laughter outside of playgrounds. I'm not saying they're right to think that way, but I don't think it necessarily had to do with the chair.

On the other hand, I wasn't there, I didn't see the looks, I really can't say why they reacted the way they did. All I can say is Good For You for having fun with your chair and the kids!