I am dreading his first fall.
My older son hasn't even started going on the monkey bars so my fear feels pretty irrational. I've watched amazing videos of kiddos with limb differences doing all sorts of things. I know #MightyWoody will figure it out. But I'm still terrified. The moment will come when he falls and I don't reach him to catch up and it's more than just a scratch. And he will be hurt and screaming, probably bleeding. And after that I will want to keep him from going out on that playground or to that friends house or from climbing the wall or playing basketball or from even leaving my side. And it will be hard.
About a year ago, I had the privilege of hearing the Lt. Gov. of Washington - Cyrus Habib - speak at a Young Elected Officials Network conference. It was extremely moving for me. #MightyWoody was in attendance at he conference with me so everything that was said was just that more poignant. Lt. Governor Habib has been blind since he was 8. And he told a story that has stuck with me. (I apologize here for paraphrasing and perhaps not getting it exactly right...Lt. Governor Habib is a very moving and dynamic speaker!)
At recess, his teacher wasn't letting him play on the playground but made him sit out on the side because the teacher was afraid he would fall and get hurt. Eventually his mother found out about it. She told the teacher that he needed to be allowed to play. “It may happen that he might slip and fall, and he might even slip and fall and break his arm — that’s a fear that any mother has. But I can fix a broken arm; I can never fix a broken spirit.”
At the time, and still most of the time today, I identify with the teacher. But I know, over time, I will eventually be able to be as assured as the mother. It is clear to me that I was meant to hear this story when I did. Cyrus's mother helped him learn the equipment at playgrounds so he could be comfortable and included. This was the first time I started to realize that I may need to be an advocate for my son and that I should start preparing myself. Because what I will be teaching #MightyWoody is how to advocate for himself. How to make sure that he is included and that everyone around him is too.
Today, this means swallowing my nerves and openly talking about his arm even when I don't want to. It means allowing awkward questions from strangers and seeing the true intent behind them without getting mad. It means speaking up if someone I don't know chooses an unkind word and helping to educate that person without judgment. It means taking the step to meet new people in my geographic community and in the limb different community. This has definitely enriched my life.
What I want most to teach my children is to be kind and take care of others. And to do that I first need to teach them to be kind to and take care of themselves. And to do that, I need to be kind to and take care of myself. It is a cycle that requires patience, love, and partnerships. But I know that I agree with Cyrus's mom - its our spirits we have to cradle with love.
(#MightyWoody with his devoted daddy Thomas Macker in Seattle)