Sunday, August 28, 2011

Swing Set

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.


CL said...

Great story - it must have been thrilling for her to learn how to swing, and to know she'll be able to do it any time she wants (when she's near a swing set) from now on.

Myrrien said...

Thank Dave, over the last few months I've been quite unwell and confined to bed at points and I have felt quite guilty for not being able to look after my children the way I always do but your post made me think about it in a different way. My toddler can now put himself to bed when his big brother goes rather than being carried through when he is asleep, he uses a normal chair at dinner time because I couldn't lift him into his highchair and is able to get and put away his shoes. He would have learned all this anyway but because I have been unable to do these things I have inadvertently pushed his independence.

I can maybe put some of the guilt away about being so unwell but somehow I still feel just a little bit sad.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Myrrien, Last December when we were in the mall, Ruby wanted to stay with me rather than go off with parents or Joe. I had never minded her alone like that before, it was Christmas and the mall was crazy. I spoke with her seriously about not being able to run after her and that if she stayed with me she had to remember that she had to be very grown up and be responsible in ways that she didn't have to be with her mom and dad. She nodded gravely and said she understood. She was just fine, very careful to stay in sight and in reach, in fact, she crawled up on me for much of the time. This time, when she was in Toronto, she wanted to stay out on the sidewalk with me rather than go in the store with Joe. I had the talk with her again, and she said that she would be very careful and be very responsible. And she was. It is a real push towards independance as you, eloquently, put it. I understand the sadness. That's why I wrote the blog, I wanted to remind myself, and maybe others that, along with the sadness, there is an up side to the experience - I get to see growth and development happen right before my eyes. Her love of me, means that she grows 'purposely' so that I never have to worry about her when she's with me. I love her love of me, I love that she grows for me, I love that our relationship means so much to her. There are many ways that your children will say, 'I love you mom' ... maybe sitting in a normal chair at dinner is one of them.

Kristin said...

Moments like that are priceless. Kudos to Ruby and kudos to you for your outlook on things.