Tuesday, September 16, 2008


My arms are still sore and it's two days later.

I was in the lobby of the apartment building, early on a Sunday morning. It's a large building so there are people constantly about. But this morning, there was that 'Sabbath' quiet around. I glanced at the door. I wondered, "Could I?" I rolled over and gave the latch a pull down, then I pushed the door out. The question, "Could I?" grew louder in my mind.

Glancing around to assure myself I wasn't being watched, I drew even with the door my foot petals on the bottom of the door. I held my chair in place by gripping the wheel with one hand. I threw the door open with the other. As it was still in motion I took hold of the other wheel and then pushed. I made it part way over the sill. The door swung back and stopped, resting on my footrest. I had my foot in the door, literally. Another big push and the door slid back, I was out. Victory.

Now there was the second door. It has a wierd 'rug' in front of it. The kind that is recessed into the floor. It's spongy and difficult to push over. Then the sill has a bigger lip on it than the first door. Too, it's just a little narrow.

Glance, no one around.

A big push gets me over the rug and right up to the door. I can't push it so it swings out, so I grab my wheels and push. The door opens slowly. I get just enough out to get my elbow on the second door. Now I have leverage, I pop out like a champaigne cork. On my own. For the first time I got through those two doors entirely without the kindness of strangers.

It was such a big moment and it mattered so much to me. I still smile at the knowledge that I can do what I need to do when I need to do it.

I remember all those times when, in service to people with disabilities, I ignored their attempts at independance and just stepped in and helped. "Here let me ..." All those times where I could have just waited for them to try (and maybe succeed) but instead my need to help subsumed their need to succeed. All those times when they could have felt masterful in their world, robbed by my inability to just wait a minute or two.

The only way I can apologize to those in my past is to ask you not to do this in the present. Let your child struggle through on their own. Try to figure when to help and when to stand back. Let those in your care try a little harder a little longer. Victory celebrations held in one's own heart are what changes our personal prejudices about our personal selves.

A moment more.

I wish I'd given a moment more.

Because in a moment more, I became a bit more.


lina said...

To this day, one of the hardest things for me to do. Not that I don't think I'm patient, but that I will offer help, to friends, to strangers, to the kids....but I'll try harder to remember to wait..just a a few minutes more - that may be the best thing I can do - still one of the hardest.
What was surprising to me though, is your realization that you can do this. When did you think you no longer could do this? and why not?

Anonymous said...

One of my mantras that started at work but has carried over into everyday life is, " If you think you have waited long enough...wait somemore"

It is truly amazing what you will see!!!

Anonymous said...

My problem would be knowing when help is wanted and when it is not. I'm not talking about someone refusing help or requesting the opportunity to try it themselves- just those times when you see someone you think could use assistance.

When I had 4 young children, I truly appreciated people holding doors open and helping out so I could use my energies for other things.

I still hold doors open and reach for things on high shelves - I guess the line between being polite and not challenging someone to try for themselves is very blurry for me.

Cindy B

Wheeling said...


You ask a tough question. I think the line for me will always be "ask". I will never be angry with someone for asking. And as long as they accept "nope, I want to see if I can do this" as an answer it works pretty well. The best thing, is when someone sticks around for a moment to see if I can pull off my latest stunt (and helps me up when I fail miserably).

Anonymous said...

I love your post today. It gave me a lump in my throat and the sting of tears to my eyes. Small victories to some are huge to others.
Once I bought my daughter a little tool kit that she had been asking for. It came with real working kid sized tools and a wooden tool box that had to be assembled. By the time we got home from the store I was tired and in need of a nap. I told her I would help her put it together when I woke up from my nap. What I really meant was I would do it for her.
My daughter was sitting at the kitchen table when I got up from my nap and she was grinning from ear to ear. There in front of her on the table was a fully assembled tool kit. She was so proud of herself and I was amazed. The lesson I learned that day has stayed with me all these years. I had assumed that she needed my help and I thought back to all the times when I surely robbed her of the satisfaction of doing it herself. Being Amber's Mom has taught me so much and patience is just one of those things.

Heike Fabig said...

Yes, Dave and Lina, this is definately the hardest part of parenting a child with a disability. When am i setting him up for failure by getting him to try something he can't do and damage his self-esteem, and when do I damage his self-esteem by not letting him try something, or let him try a bit longer/harder.
By the way Dave, i gave you a values blog award. ee http://rollercoasterparenting.blogspot.com/2008/09/awards.html