I am a freelance columnist for Friedreich's Ataxia News. I was recently published on my column, My Darling Disability, and I wanted to share it here, too. You can either read it by following this link, or just keep scrolling below.
As a mom, I am obviously around kids all the time. But not just my own. I am around kids when I take my children to school, T-ball, church, play dates, restaurants with playgrounds, etc. I encounter countless kids each week.
As an FA patient dependent on a mobility aid, I am pretty hard to miss. You don’t often see a mom using a walker to take her kids to preschool. You don’t often see a mom chasing her kids around on the playground with the assistance of a walker.
However, that is my reality. I don’t want to miss out on these experiences with my kids, so I just accept the help from my walker and get along the best I can.
I get a lot of looks from other parents. Some looks are curious, some are proud, and some are tainted with pity. I take it all in stride and just smile and interact in as friendly a way as possible.
My son is 4 and my daughter is almost 2, so I am primarily around preschool or early elementary school kids. At this age, kids are simpler. They observe their surroundings and generally just accept them. They aren’t prejudiced or judgmental — but they are inquisitive.
When I get looks from kids, they are usually genuinely curious. They see that I’m pushing something, but it doesn’t look like a stroller or anything they can categorize and recognize. Some kids stare for a while, some ask their parents or friends about it, and some ask me.
Generally, kids will ask “What’s that?” or “Why do you have that?” Depending on their age, I usually just say, “This walker helps me walk.” Most kids accept that and just move on about their business.
It is so simple to children: “Oh, that lady uses a walker.” They just accept it. They don’t see me as disabled, diseased, or an object of pity or concern – I am just the mom with the walker.
So, I have a little message to moms of little ones: Let them be curious and let them form their own opinions about those with needs that are different from yours. Your kids are beautiful and pure – let them stay that way! It’s OK if they ask a question to satisfy their curiosity. I am not offended.
I am happy to play a part in shaping their view of the world. Hopefully, I can help them see that everyone they encounter is just another person, doing their best in this world. I hope that your children grow up to be kind adults who just accept “that lady who uses a walker.” After all, I am still a person, just like them.
And if your child starts inquiring further (as in “Why do you use that walker?”), just use your judgment. If the person seems open and happy to chat, let your kid investigate. If you yourself are curious, show them how to ask in a sensitive and kind way. Don’t just stare and speculate. Either ask “What’s your story?” or just smile and continue about your day.
Kindness matters. It is key to a tolerant attitude of acceptance. If we can keep modeling that mindset and approach for our kids, I think that the world would be a much more beautiful place.