“Tumm!” He yelled, his little voice straining to be heard over the splashing water. “Tumm Mommy!” He wanted so badly for me to come play on the pirate ship in the kiddie pool. It was our first family staycation since moving to Maui in which we had no agenda. I didn't have any conference to attend, Sean didn't have to see a property for work, there were no other friends or family along for the ride, we were just simply taking a couple days to breathe and enjoy some time as our little threesome.
Sean was at the pool restaurant grabbing us some lunch and I was watching Charlie. He was his adorable self, running around, splashing every chance he got, but I could tell he was a little bored. He wanted someone to play with, and why wouldn't he want me to tumm play? Problem was, I couldn't. I couldn't run after him, splash him or catch him at the bottom of the slide. The kiddie pool was pretty shallow, but there was a step down in order to get closer to the pirate ship, making it just out of my reach while in the wheelchair. I could get down to the ground, but I didn’t trust that Charlie would stick my my side and I couldn’t risk being stuck on the ground with no way back into my chair. I looked at his face and immediately wanted to shrivel up and disappear. I wanted to get back in the car and drive the 45 minutes home. I wanted all of the eyes waiting to see what I would do to get off me. But more than anything, I wanted to tumm in the water, on my own and play with my 2 year old son without worry.
In that instant, I was completely overcome with a waterfall of emotions. My first instinct went totally victim. I was heartbroken, and for the very first time I saw my son hurt because of my disability. I had always known this moment would eventually creep up, but it still didn't make it any easier. I hated seeing his sweet little face fall with disappointment. Up until now I couldn’t think of another moment like this. Sean was usually around to just pick me up and throw me in the water. If Sean wasn’t around, then I simply didn’t put myself in these situations. Lately I had found myself refraining from being around water, with or without Charlie, if I was on my own because it frustrated me so much.
I hate that helpless feeling. Hate is an ugly word, but this is one of those rare times when it’s appropriate, because let’s face it, I fucking hate feeling helpless. I hated that moment in the kiddie pool with Charlie. I wanted to just hold him, tell him I’m so sorry and that I’d never put him in that situation again, but that wouldn’t help him. He unfortunately had to face the music and know this is normal for our family. His life will be full of more of these moments and that’s a hard pill for a mother to swallow. A mother never likes to see their child hurt, and I could see the hurt all over his face, standing alone in the kiddie pool, surrounded by the other children and their parents, his sweet little hand stretched out wanting desperately for his mother to tumm play.
So now what? Am I going to just feel sorry for myself the rest of my life? As they say, “It is what it is” and my situation is not changing any time soon. My son is getting more and more energetic, and so far, he doesn’t have a single cell in his body that feels limited. He will try anything, and he will try it with his whole heart until he figures it out. He knows no fear, and if that is going to continue, he can’t see mine. My father used to say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a relative”. Our family will always be searching for the will, the way or the relative to get around our limitations, for these limits are ours as a family. My spinal cord injury is our challenge to overcome, our injury to face head on, and we are committed to finding a way to continue enjoying life.
The last thing I should do as a mother is sulk. That doesn’t do Charlie any good to see his mommy feel sorry for herself. Nope, he needs to see a few things at this pivotal moment. This will surely be the first of many frustrating moments and it’s crucial he doesn’t see me break. He’s always paying attention to how I respond so he knows what he should do. His beliefs in himself are being formed based on my beliefs in him and in myself. In my opinion, the most important thing we can do as parents is be self-aware. Our children are more aware than we realize, and the way we treat ourselves is in direct relation to how they will treat themselves as well.
Charlie didn’t care about the pirate ship, he cared about playing with me, so we found a way. Tumm on Charlie, we are going to figure this out together. And there it was, the handicap pool chair lift. Here’s the thing about these chairs, 1) They are now legally supposed to be in every public pool; 2) They are extremely embarrassing to use because you feel like you are on display; 3) Everything is easier with a buddy. So, along with my buddy, we proceeded to use the legally necessary, embarrassing handicap pool chair lift. Charlie couldn’t be more excited once he found out he got to push the handle and help mommy into the pool. As I prepared myself physically and mentally to use the lift, Charlie did his part and tested it out about 12 times, riding it up and down, in and out of the water. He didn’t give a shit who was looking at him, he just saw this as a fun way to get into the water. So I took the lead from my incredible toddler and got into the chair. Charlie giggled with excitement and waited for me to get situated. Once I gave him the go-ahead, he pushed the lever, lowered his mommy into the water with all the pride in the world. Then, in Charlie fashion, he pulled the lever to raise the chair up, got in himself, pushed the lever and lowered himself into the water just like his mommy.
Thank you Charlie for teaching me a major lesson in letting go and enjoying the process. You were the will, the way and the relative for me when I needed it most. Once again, you taught me that every little thing is gonna be alright.