There’s nowhere I feel more eyes on me than when I’m picking my son up from school. We’re quite the sight, red mobility scooter and a toddler strapped to my lap. I’ve only done it a few times in my wheelchair and that’s even worse. A lot of looks, quick glances. Some are curious, some pity and the majority try not to meet your eye at all.
Disability is such a misunderstood thing. It has so many pre conceived notions. We don’t expect disabled people to be parents we certainly don’t expect them to have the sex that makes the baby in the first place. Think it’s a feeling of how can we be parents when we must need looking after constantly ourselves?
My disability definitely posed some challenges when my youngest was tiny that weren’t there when my older two were small and I could still walk. I couldn’t carry him down the stairs, one of the older kids would do it for me. Eventually I learned to crawl up and down them while holding him. I couldn’t stand up and rock him to sleep but I could sit down and supply the boob and his Dad did the standy up rocky thing. As he’s got older there’s different challenges, he’s at the age where he has no sense of danger and given half the chance will bolt (normally towards the nearest hazard) So solo trips to the park are out of the question. We spend a lot of time at home during the week but make up for it at weekends when Daddy’s home.
We do the school run though, its my favourite time of the day. Weird stares aside, it’s the three of us, always chatting often singing. After drop off we ride home, he points out the beep beeps (cars) and the Quack Quacks (everything with wings is a duck) It’s lovely having him all snuggled up on me while we chat and laugh and sing and zoom along.
There’s lots of stuff I can’t do, but as parents we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Being disabled doesn’t make me an inspirational parent or a lesser parent. I’m just a parent. I can’t walk now but we dance around the kitchen in my wheelchair. Sometimes I’m tired so we snuggle up and watch telly or read the very hungry caterpillar for the millionth time.
I stress about the same stuff now as I did when I could walk – Are they eating enough veg? Am I spending enough quality time with them? Are they happy?
My disability is the least stressful thing about parenting.
My disability also means my boys are opened up to a whole other world. They’re not going to be the adults that stare awkwardly at people in wheelchairs. They’ll have an automatic understanding and empathy. They get that disability doesn’t automatically mean something sad. It’s a neural word to them, they see that a disabled life can be challenging and frustrating but also it can be funny and joyful and filled with magic. Just like non disabled people’s lives are. I’m pretty glad I’m sending four humans out into the world with this knowledge.
Is being Mum hard? I have four boys, a teen a toddler and a couple of others chucked in the middle. Of course it’s hard.
Was it still hard back when I could walk? Yes.
Parenting is hard.
It’s scary and lonely and frustrating. It’s being deprived of sleep and feeling lost for a bit. It’s shouty and grumpy and really annoying.
It’s also brilliant and hilarious and heart warming and a million magic special moments that make you feel all lovely and that you might do a little cry. It’s tiny hands holding yours and big wet kisses and massive squeeze your eyeballs out cuddles. It’s stroking little warm foreheads in the middle of the night and a milk drunk baby nestled against you.
It’s awful and amazing and a billion other emotions and none of them have anything to do with being disabled.
Nina is a Mum, Wife, Disability Mentor and activist (and a massive nerd.) Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/nina_tame