So, it’s finally happened. I have been waiting for it to happen ever since I noticed that my dodgy legs were getting in the way of me taking the kids to school.
Some background: for the first couple of years that Alex was at school, I was able to to rush out the door with only 10 minutes to spare until the school bell rang – and I would usually still manage to get him there on time (usually with Ava in tow). The school run was often left to me as Hubs wasn’t self-employed at that time, meaning that he was usually out of the house. Plus, I would be taking Ava to her toddler activities in the afternoon, which meant we had a good little routine going of toddler group – running errands – school run.
A couple of years ago, when Ava started school, I noticed that my foot started dragging on the walk home after dropping them off. Like I was walking through treacle. I….just….couldn’t….lift….my….foot….up….enough…. People started looking. I felt like everyone thought I was drunk. I went from ‘normal Mum’ to one who had to ask for help from my (brilliant) in-laws to take and pick up my kids for me. Attempting the short walk to and from school felt like the equivalent of climbing a mountain. When I did attempt it, I would catch my toe on the pavement and find myself lurching forward, catching myself if I was lucky, falling flat on my face if I wasn’t. I wrecked the knees in countless pairs of jeans in that time. This was the start of my life tripping through treacle.
Long story short – I ended up getting crutches to keep me steadier. They helped for a while (and still do for short distances) but ultimately my left leg still refused to lift. So I did it. I bit the bullet and got a scooter. A little red thing – which I keep telling myself I should customise – that gets me get from A to B. The stress that I went through when I started using it in front of other people is a story for a whole other blog post, but the one bonus was that the kids didn’t mind and they loved the fact that they could hitch a lift on it.
Yesterday I dropped the kids off at school and, when I did so, Alex turned and looked at me and said,
‘I like it better when you use your crutches and not your scooter, you are the only Mum who uses a scooter here’
My heart leapt into my throat. I am THAT Mum – the one who embarrasses her child and makes him feel different from his friends. I have to say that Alex has never said that his friends tease him or talk to him about it. But I remember. I remember what it is like even just walking beside my (able-bodied) parents as a child (albeit as a teenager and not an 8 year old) and feeling embarrassed. I am sure that it is inevitable that both of my children will be embarrassed about me one day and would be even if I didn’t have mobility difficulties because, well, parents are just embarrassing, aren’t they? But I don’t feel ready to be that embarrassing parent just yet.
I have had a look at a few forums and it looks pretty common place for kids to be embarrassed by a parent that is in a scooter/wheelchair. It is early days yet and I am really thankful for the fact that Alex felt that he could say something to me about it. I plan to have a chat with him when the time is right (i.e. not one minute before the school bell rings). Looking at forums where children of disabled parents talk about their worries and difficulties, the one thing that really stands out is how much these kids love their parents and understand how things are hard for them. If one good thing is to come out of me having Multiple Sclerosis, I hope it is that my children will grow up to be understanding, kind and aware of the difficulties that others may be facing.
Does anyone have any experience of dealing with something similar? I would love to hear if so.