Monday, August 10, 2015

Men. Doors. Children.

Sadie is an interesting kid. She knows her own mind. She makes her own decisions. She will, at all costs, want to do something she's seen done once, on her own,  without help. Discernment is one of her gifts, if she tries something, realizes she can't do it, she will, without hesitation, ask for assistance. But for her, it's really important that she be the one asking. I like this about her.

We left our apartment building and Sadie had determined that she was going to push the grocery cart, carrying all sorts of stuff, down the hallway, down the elevator and out to the car. It was just she and I, the others were going to follow. We both didn't feel like waiting for everyone to be ready, she had her shoes on, I had my power chair amped up Out we went.

When we got to the lobby we found it relatively full. One elevator was on service, another was down, which left only one working. It was miraculous that it came to us empty. We got to the door. Sadie said she would take the cart through first. Sadie is a little girl, she's five years old. She pushed at the door, got it open a bit, an accomplishment because it's heavy, and then she started pulling at the cart. It was half way through. I could see that Sadie was smelling victory.

She was having a good time.

She was not frustrated.

More importantly, she did not ask for help.

I got where Sadie was coming from. I struggled and struggled to learn how to get through that same door in my manual chair. It was important to me to develop this skill. In an emergency, I might really need it. Sadie wasn't thinking about emergencies of course, she was thinking about the "I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF!!" moment.

Glancing over at the small crowd in the lobby waiting for an elevator. Half were watching the elevators slow progress down, the others were watching Sadie. Two women were glaring at me, I saw them, understood what they were thinking and said simply, "She likes to do things on her own."

I should have kept my mouth shut.

My explanation spurred one of them to action, "She needs help, can't you see that!!!"

I did see Sadie and, no she didn't need help, she needed time.

I understood this. Part of my problem with learning how to do those exact same doors was the fact that people wouldn't give me time to do it. People would see me going out the doors, it involves intricate moves, well timed, and they would imagine I was frustrated. They would imagine that they were the solution to a problem that I actually didn't have. When they'd come to help, I'd have to say, "I'm trying to learn to do this on my own." That, by the way, never worked.

When the woman darted towards Sadie, she was almost done, three out of the four tires were out. The door was pushed wide enough for her to now get it out. I rushed towards the woman, got there, blocking her, I said, "Please, please, let her do it on her own. It's important to her." There was no time for me to explain that as a disabled person, I've really learned about help, when it's wanted when it's not. I've learned how unwanted help can hinder learning and damage self esteem. Being disabled gives life lessons just like paying attention can give you life lessons.

She spat at me, angry for a reason I couldn't understand, "I can't believe you would sit on your ass and not help that kid."

I wanted to scream, "I AM HELPING HER, SOMETIMES DOING NOTHING IS THE ONLY HELP SOMEONE WANTS." She leaned over me, actually bringing her body in contact with mine, and pushed at the door. It flew open and Sadie, thank heavens, didn't fall when the door suddenly swung away from her.

She got the cart out.

She looked angrily at the woman but didn't say anything to her, she said to me, teary voiced, "I almost got it out by myself."

"I know sweetie," I said.

Behind me, I heard the woman would had given unwanted help, who had violated my space in a serious way, say to her friend, "Men shouldn't be allowed any where near children."

Later, at the car, Sadie asked, "Why did she say that? You and Joe and Daddy take good care of me."

"I don't know, Sadie, I don't know."


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

There is only one word for people like that. One almost nice word, that is, and it rhymes with 'witch.'

I love the way you see nuance.

That woman missed to whole thing.

Possibly it was too much to expect under the conditions of only one elevator working, but still - she should have asked Sadie, "Do you need help?" and LISTENED when Sadie said no.

Some people are constitutionally incapable of listening.

Marna Nightingale said...

I ... argh. I'm sorry, that's not very useful, but I'm so angry on behalf of you and Sadie I can't not comment and I can't say anything useful.

Except that somebody ought to sit that woman down and explain a) internalised misogyny and b) where generally competent adults come from, i.e. doing hard things for the first time a lot and c) that other people are not hers to instruct and supervise even if they're male and sitting in a wheelchair or female and not yet of voting age. Even if [she thinks they're] Doing It Wrong,

clairesmum said...

i think she said that because she did not grow up with men like the ones in Sadie's life.....and maybe when she was a child she struggled with things and when she needed help nobody was there to help (or they were there and watched her struggle, but still did not help her.) She gets triggered by what she sees and is thrown back into that pain and shame from her own childhood, and reflexively tries to change the outcome, losing sight of the facts of the present day.
The general idea that people have old pain that they don't understand and it causes them to act out in various ways is a useful way to try to reframe someone else's behavior away from an attempt to hurt me personally. then it is easier for me to let go of the encounter. (not as simple as it sounds, of course!)

my 2 cents worth, anyway.
i know that Sadie will get another chance to 'do it her own self' and succeed!

Colleen said...

I just don't understand where this woman, who doesn't know you and doesn't know Sadie, gets the idea that she can judge you. And then make disparaging remarks about men and children. She has some awful nerve, as my mother used to put it. I just don't know what else to say!

Anonymous said...

This woman is laking respect!


Molly said...

It's amazing how some people are so stuck in their own view that they miss what's right in front of them. Meanwhile they robbed Sadie of an opportunity to do it herself, like we (and she) know she can. AGH.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. How irritating. Sadie rocks, even if that other person was too impatient to see it. I too hate when people try to 'fix it' for me when what I need is simply *time*.


TragicSandwich said...

Sadie is wonderful, and so are you for giving her the room to be wonderful in her own way.

"Men shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children"? That is crap, in a whole lot of ways, but even just focusing on this instance, it is so misguided. Sadie was learning how to do something on her own. Everyone should be able to do as much on their own as they can, and the younger they start, the better! This wasn't a case where she was potentially in some danger, it was just meant that a few people had to wait a bit, and that's how life works for us all at one point or another.

As the mother of a 5-year-old autistic girl, I want to give my daughter the ability to do things independently, to the best of her abilities. She's going to fail, because that's how life works for us all at one point or another. But I know her--she'll learn from those failures, and she'll do better the next time, and the next time. But if I don't give her the opportunity to fail, she won't have those experiments. She won't gain that independence and authentic sense of accomplishment. And I don't see who that benefits.

Thanks for letting Sadie do that. She gets so much more from that than this woman was capable of realizing.

bevd said...

I applaud your ability to realise that children need to feel competent, and that sometimes helping is staying out of their way.

My youngest had very severe motor-planning issues. At that time the only strategy I knew was to supportively watch him as he tried his best and to try and help talk him through the motor planning. I remember standing at the counter with his brother as we encouraged him to push his chair over to join us in cooking. We weren't starting without him, and he knew it, but as he pushed his chair everywhere but where it needed to go, he was frustrated and crying. I just didn't know how he would learn if we intervened, so as we tried to talk him through it, his brother looked at me with empathetic tears in his eyes and said 'Tell me again why we can't help him?' I felt teary myself as I said 'He has to learn to do it himself, so he can be good at it. If we help him he won't learn, and he will always need help.'

Ruti said...

Hating men is not internalized misogyny, and it is not an inevitable reaction to abuse. Whether or not she has a bad history with men, what she said about Dave was hateful and completely out of line. It's not ok to make excuses for it.