Dealing with Indifference

Moving Forward Series


Meena Dhanjal Outlaw

My kids are off from school for the summer. I decided I would sign Jamie up for piano lessons.  He’s about to turn six years old.

Every time my children were home for the summer, I have often felt as if I am the only parent that thinks almost three months is just too long for them to stay home.

My seventeen year old decided he was going to spend his weekdays taking extra credit classes at summer school.  As happy as this made me, I also realized, there goes the majority of my summer activity money.

So, with my youngest, I find out myself thinking once again, what do we do and most importantly, what can we afford?

After looking at a few options, I decided on piano and swimming lessons.  As he graduated from Kindergarten, he received two very large volumes that were filled with math problems, in addition to reading, and science worksheets.  So, in a nutshell, I had my work cut out for me.

On our first day of swimming lessons, we entered in from the lobby entrance.  This was where all the employees sat to sign in new participants, as well as, adding and amending schedules.

I paid for ten days of a class known as ‘catfish’.  Jamie would be taught how to not be afraid of the water.

One of the sales clerks walked us into the main area of the gym where Jamie would meet his swimming instructor.  We passed the many changing rooms, until we arrived to a large waiting area.

This is where parents sat in the rows of chairs in what was a fairly decent sized space.

Beside the door that the children would go through once called to begin their session was a little play area.

It housed a TV that played a latest kids movie, and some toys.  I didn’t have to tell Jamie where to go.

As I look around to decide where I would park myself in the power chair, I realized there were no spaces for a wheelchair.  I had to move a few chairs around in order to scoot myself into where I could sit in front of the very large window in front of us.  Behind the window was the huge pool with many instructors teaching their little catfish, stingrays, and dolphins and all the way up to the highest level of Stroke 3 students.

I realized even if I pushed the chairs around I was still sticking out and found myself having to scoot either forward or backwards to allow others to pass me safely.

As Jamie was called in to his lesson I excitedly sat watching for him to appear in the window and with camera in hand.  However, seeing that there were three rows of parents in front of me, I couldn’t see him.  I elevated my wheelchair and I finally got a view of his little head bobbing up and down the water being securely held by his teacher.

I was delighted.  I found a place where he could learn something new, and I could stay cool which helped with the constant influx of irregular body temperature I experience from the spinal cord injury and Myasthenia Gravis.  With the spinal cord injury I get cold.  With Myasthenia Gravis, heat can exacerbate me.

Normally, when I go to any place more than once eventually people get used to seeing me, so someone will hold the door open, or even help pull out a few chairs for me.

In the ten days of attending with Jamie, taking him to the changing rooms, helping him dress and leaving the facility, it was only one time that another parent held a door open for me so we could exit the building.

On our first piano lesson, things were a little better.  I was received with kindness and no one seemed to have any problem in opening the door.  The only problem I experienced was the size of the waiting room.  It was tiny.  The seating consisted of black leather couches that lined the walls on either side of the entrance doors.  Even if someone did want to pull a chair out, they couldn’t.  The only place I could sit in was in front of the actual door.

So, as I sat there, customers had a hard time getting around me.

“Oh boy,” I thought.

It is never a comfortable situation to be in, but I have been down this road so many times in the seventeen years I have raised children from a wheelchair.

Most times when I mention something to the owners of an establishment it is received either positively or negatively, but the problem in this case was, they just had no space to accommodate my power wheelchair. What was I going to tell them? You need to get a bigger waiting room? You need to take out half of your seating?

I also thought, “Wow, they obviously don’t have kids that are in wheelchairs that attend their music lessons, what a shame.”

On the second visit we went inside, the owner of the established told me I needed to move into a space that put me in front of the couches on one side of the waiting area.

She was trying to get bulk items from her car and bring them inside to the facility.

In the meantime, no other customers could sit on the seats behind me, and the ones that entered looked at me as if I was deliberately trying to block the seating.

One man stood in front of me just staring.  I had to apologize and explain the situation.  Luckily, he was courteous and waited more patiently than I myself could muster.

Here’s the thing.  Either I stop going and just let my children not experience certain activities in their lives, or I suffer the inconveniences and rudeness just so that I know my children are not living the indifference with me.

Sadly, it also just means that I am the one carrying the stress with me.

How can any human go around as if nothing has happened in my shoes?  I can’t, no one can.  However, If I complain, it will only make my child feel the blunt of the situation, and in the seventeen years I have been a mom on wheels, I have done everything I can to avoid such moments for them.

So, at the third piano lesson, I made sure Jamie was safely deposited into the facility with his teacher, and then I sat outside the front of the store until his class had finished, regardless of the blazing heat, or how my body was going to react.

It is at moments like this where life in a wheelchair is not pleasant, but to complain would only make matters worse.  Sure, I could tell them about the Americans with Disabilities Act, but how would that help my five-year-old child who is just trying to learn something in life?

Instead, I choose to focus on the fact that my child is going to be even smarter in life, because I put away the indifference and decided this was not going to affect his life.

my life.  However, even more so is the realization that I have three children to whom I gave life through birth.  Two of my children were born before my spinal cord injury, and one after.   To some people that might not be much of an accomplishment, but I beg to differ.  Being a mother is a blessing.  Being a mother and paralyzed, well that’s just unique.

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