Being a parent is about being around, not about how you get around
If I’ve learned one thing as a parent and a therapist, it is that children remember events, special occasions, that odd day out and the little things far more than material items. Our presence as a parent outweighs and outshines our presents. This is true for any parent, walking or on wheels.
Facing the challenges
I remember attending my first parents’ evening at my daughter’s school in my wheelchair. I was filled with nervous excitement at getting back into active parenting. I was well acquainted with the layout of the buildings and I knew most of the teaching staff – as a walking mom! I arrived at the school with my husband and we set out to her classroom. It was on the second floor and, as it turned out, our challenges to get there pretty much set the tone for the next 15 years of school, sport and other parent-related accessibility challenges.
I soon realised that being present and remaining an active parent wouldn’t be easy. I was hit in the face with the daunting fact that most venues that entail school-related and extra-mural activities are not accessible.
It quickly dawned on me that I would need to be pushy – pardon the pun! I would need to be tenacious and persistent in my need to be present in their lives. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that I would attend my kids’ ballet recitals, rugby matches or school plays no matter what. No one would keep me away. One day, my kids would look back on their upbringing and know that I wanted to be part of their lives and share their interests.
Summon the cavalry
Over the years, there were many times when I almost considered giving up. The treacherously uneven rugby pitches, hundreds of steps, seating issues and many more people, venues and incidents got to me from time to time. My cavalry, however, kept me going.
My kids, husband, sister, my family and friends, and even the occasional stranger banded together to carry, push, pull or do whatever it took to help me stay committed to my cause. Without them, I would surely have missed out, and for that, I will be forever grateful!
Planning is key
Parenting on wheels is no different from any outing in a wheelchair. Planning is key. Phoning ahead to “book” a space for your wheelchair in a crowded hall or visiting the venue beforehand can make life much less complicated. It can prevent unnecessary stress and allow everyone to focus on your child and the exciting event.
No is never an option
“No” or “I can’t” was never an option. We often reminisce about events when I had wanted to give up, stay behind or not attend because it would simply be too complicated. It is with fondness that we also recall how someone would summon the courage to find a way. We are, indeed, all the better for it. Watching my kids approach life as adults, I can see how not giving up, finding a way and working together became the foundation of their lives.
Reap the rewards
Parenting is never easy, no matter the parent or their circumstances. It’s definitely no different for parents on wheels. There are countless challenges, and like any other parents, we have the choice and the responsibility to be present. Find a way, fight for it if you have to and don’t allow anyone to take any opportunity to be a part of your child’s life away from you!
Wanda Boshoff is a wife, mother and qualified occupational therapist who also happens to be a paraplegic. Thanks to her experience in these fields she is able to assist others in similar situations. Before her accident in 1998, she ran a successful private practice specialising in children – particularly those with childhood-development and school-related issues. Over the past 20 years she has been running her own businesses, and become a blogger and the owner of a guest house.