Saturday, November 17, 2007

An Equalizer Has Arrrived

The playing field has been levelled! Well, maybe not as much as we'd like, because we've learned that even the tiniest change in incline is noticeable in a wheelchair. However, as far as our daughter goes, things are looking much more accessible now.

Before adopting our youngest daughter, I never knew how much controversy could surround something as simple as a wheelchair. All the view points are amazing (this includes what seems like a thousand different perspectives and philosophies about when to introduce a wheelchair and what type to use, what brand, what home environment -- more on that in a different blog!), and can really leave a parent feeling like their head is spinning. Perhaps the biggest contrast though has been between our youngest daughter and our oldest.

As the photo indicates, our oldest daughter loves to stand. She loves to walk even more. Running is her favorite, besides swimming, at least. For her, the past few months using a wheelchair have been like a prison as far as the restrictions go. Part of that is certainly due to the 6 weeks she spent in a body cast. But, also, that is just her perspective. She wants to walk, she wants to run -- a wheelchair, to her is representative of a disability. And a disability is something that she, despite missing an arm and having severely deformed legs and hips does not believe she has. Honestly, though, if life with a disability is as she lives it, then disability is a misnomer and life is just life. I suspect that she's right.

Anyway, for her the idea of using a wheelchair is outrageous and she has worked so diligently on her rehab that she is up and running on her new prosthetic leg much earlier than predicted. Although, a lot of progress, I'm sure, is due to the hand of God directing her and healing her. But, the fact does remain, that if she didn't really want it, it wouldn't be happening as fast as it is.

But then our youngest daughter enters the debate. To her a wheelchair is the single most exciting thing she has ever seen. The very first time she ever tried a wheelchair, it was all she talked about for days. When she'd see one while out in public, she'd squeal with delight:


I'm sure we offended more than one wheelchair user in the past year as her delightful squealing probably made them think, "Man, that family never gets out! Those kids have never seen a real wheelchair!"

But to her, that wheelchair represents freedom. The very night my husband assembled it and set her in, she began wheeling everywhere on the first floor of our home. She was unstoppable chatter for 2 straight days as she learned to maneuver over bumps and corners of her home environment.

"Now, I go to the table!" "Now, I go to the piano!" "Here, I'll throw that away for you!" "I GO!"

Two totally different perspectives! One child sees the wheelchair as a symbol of restraint and one sees the wheelchair as her liberator.

Of course, over the years we have worked with our older daughter to change her attitude. She now knows the proper words about wheelchairs, but I doubt that her heart-attitude has changed. She pushes herself with incredible fortitude in order to avoid something she thinks makes her look disabled. Our hope is that her seeing how it benefits the younger one will, over the years, help her to see just how liberating a wheelchair can be.

In all actuality, though, the wheelchair is really simply a very valuable tool, and a prosthetic leg is the same. Neither thing is what defines a person, and neither (as well as regular old boring walking) is morally or physically superiour. They level the playing field, and both help my daughters run the race set before them.

It's a race they both run with their own unique grace and beauty.

1 comment:

MarlaQuack said...

They really are adorable.