Have you ever overheard your kids and their friends talking and what they were talking about made you hold your breath for a minute in anticipation of how the conversation would evolve or the turns the conversation might take? We recently had this experience.
It was early in the baseball season; maybe a one or two practices in. Rachel was sitting on the bleachers and she overheard one of Jacob’s teammates ask THE question! Why is your dad in a wheelchair? I wasn’t in ear-shot but Rachel said she held her breath in anticipation of how Jacob would answer. Jacob shrugged his shoulders and said I don’t know, he doesn’t know how to walk. Luckily, his friend, was good with that and moved on to another subject. What’s interesting about kids is once they have their curiosity satisfied their acceptance is instant. When his friend sees me he will now talk to me – tell me about a cool toy or something. Adults need to take a page out of their playbook!
At dinner that night, Rachel and I talked to him about what his friend asked him and explained it’s not that daddy doesn’t know how to walk but it’s that he can’t. I was holding my breath for him to ask why. But, he didn’t! He was like okay cool can you pass me some more vegetables. I thought to myself, thank you G-D! I was not ready for that conversation! This dad had no map or GPS to help navigate that conversation.
This incident got me thinking, how do we prepare Jacob for those questions? Do we take the spiritual-religious route and explain that we are all made in G-D’s image and daddy uses a wheelchair because that’s how G-D made him? But, wait what if he ask … why daddy and not mommy or even himself? Then what? YIKES!! On the other hand, do we give him the facts of what literally happen and risk him getting all Sheldon when his friends ask?
These types of conversations seem scary and overwhelming. Trust me they ARE! Some people may take the situation as a negative and say things such as “wow, good luck with that” or “man, that’s gotta be tough” Not so, for Rachel and I, we feel blessed and excited to educate him and mold him to have compassion and yet have a unique understanding and perspective that disability doesn’t mean incapable!