I realized, early on in Ruby's life, that my disability would make a difference in regards to my options to be a care provider for her. Obviously there are things I simply can't do in relation to a child's needs. Joe and I, together, would be, I knew, good with each and every responsibility in child minding. I'm really good at making up games, spending time on activities and providing unnoticed learning situations, so that's what I do.
While my disability limited somethings, I came to realize at Santa's Village that there is kind of a hidden benefit that comes from those limitations. That realization came when Ruby and I were on our own and she wanted to go over to the swings. I told her that she could as long as she was on one of the swings that was in my direct line of sight. 'As long as I can see you,' is a phrase that trips of my tongue easily these days.
She got to the swing and climbed on.
And sat there.
And sat there.
The swing was dead.
Other kids were there with Dads and Moms. With Uncles and Aunts. With NuNu's and NaNa's. And Ruby watched them all being pushed into the sky. Laughing. But she had no one to push her. Her guy, me, was in a wheelchair and not able to get over to where the swings were. So she tried a couple of clever things to get the swing to move.
She grabbed on to the swing beside and tried to get momentum going by pulling the swings together and then letting go quickly.
It didn't work.
I felt horrible watching her. I almost felt angry at the fact that I couldn't get over to help her - I'm not transcendent enough to be angry at the fact that it was made impossible for me to get over to her. I almost called out to a Mom who was busy watching Dad push their child. I almost asked her to give Ruby a pity push. But then something wonderful happened.
On the vacant swing next to her a young woman, maybe 24, sat down and began to swing. She knew how to make it move. Pushing her feet out, pulling her feet back, she slowly built up momentum. Ruby watched her, and watched her and watched her. Then, she began to imitate her. She tentatively put her feet out and back. Nothing happened. She watched and watched and watched again. Now she put her feet out, leaning back and then pulled her feet back while leaning forward.
The swing moved.
A minute later, she was swinging.
I fought tears.
Because I couldn't get over there. She learned to do it herself. I watched the smile spread all over her face. Other kids were laughing with joy, she was laughing with victory.
She ran over to me.
"I used the swing all by myself,' she announced triumphantly.
Because she didn't have me to do it for her, she learned to do it herself. Because other parents rushed to do it for their kids their kids were not learning to do it themselves. I know that pushing your kid is a way of bonding ... a way of having fun together. But so is, I learned, being there at moments of complete accomplishment.