One afternoon (around Christmas), I allowed a friends daughter to sit in Evie's wheelchair. She is a year older than Evie. She can run, talk, feed herself, hold a cup, sit on a potty, and swim. She is "normal." She is also curious (most pre-schoolers are) and thought sitting in Evie's chair would be great fun. I encouraged it, even said they could take a picture (which her mother reluctantly did, but I doubt she kept the pic). It never crossed my mind that seeing her daughter sitting in a wheelchair might not be a memory in the making photo op for her. Oops. My bad. I didn't think of it that way because I didn't see the situation through her eyes.
Here's what I saw.
- I saw an opportunity to show a little girl that wheelchairs aren't bulky pieces of equipment to be afraid of or shy away from. They are just chairs with awesome wheels. Evie's chair is extra awesome because it's raspberry pink!
- I saw a smile spread across her face and a twinkle in her eye at the prospect of sitting in that awesome seat that is custom made for my girl.
- I saw her laughing, just like Evie does, while sitting in that chair.
- I saw her not thinking about how sad it was for Evie to need a wheelchair (a rare occurrence).
A child's acceptance is a precious thing. My friend's daughter didn't know, or understand, what that wheelchair symbolized to the adults around her. She didn't care. She just accepted it for what it was…a chair. But, that won't last forever. She'll grow up and the understanding will come.
I am confident that her parents will teach her that people who need medical equipment are people just like her. They aren't someone to be afraid of or ignore. I wish I could say that about all parents.
I have accepted the wheelchair. I don't like it, but I have accepted it. I have also accepted the looks we receive from those around us. I don't always like those either. If I manage to catch their eyes I give them a big smile (most days). If the opportunity presents itself, I will introduce them to Evie. Is it easy? No. Does it help? Maybe. Will they see my daughter and not her chair? Absolutely.