Isla’s new trick is to drape herself across the two close together couches in our living room, and kind of just hang out there. ‘This is supposed to be a comfortable yoga pose,’ she says.
‘Is it?’ I ask.
‘I don’t think so.’
‘Good. Sit up so you don’t fall and hurt yourself.’ And she does, because I’m her mother, and sometimes she listens to me.
She goes back to drawing and shows me her newest masterpiece a little while later.
‘Look, it’s us.’ she says. ‘Daddy with his beard, you with your big hair and your wheels, and me in the middle. And that’s the bunny you said I can get when I’m seven.’
Yes, I use a wheelchair. And it’s not the first thing my kid notices about me.
There’s my hair. She also says I’m funny and I have a silly laugh.
And honestly, I wouldn’t mind if she mentioned my wheelchair first.
Because it’s a big deal and makes my life possible. I have Cerebral Palsy and have pretty much always used a wheelchair to get around.
These days I use it for everything including driving around our house, picking up Lego with my grabber as I go.
A few weeks ago, the kid ran out of toilet paper so I put a roll at the end of my grabber, and stuck it through the door for her.
The things mothers do for our children.
So, I believe the world should be a more accessible place, but I wouldn’t change my disability to fit the world.
What I would change is the ableist notion that my husband is my brother and my daughter is my niece.
That disabled people can’t be married parents.
Also, please don’t assume that my mobility changed during my pregnancy, that I must have walked before.
I was a wheelchair user before I became a mother, and my wheelchair doesn’t make me any less of a mother.
My wheelchair actually made early motherhood easier.
The crib was connected to my side of the bed, I parked under my desk and used it as a changing table. And there was a lot of baby-wearing. Like, all the time.
I’m convinced this beginning accounts for our strong relationship now. I’m not bragging, I know she’s only six and parenthood is always a work in progress.
And like any parent, I rarely get to pee alone.
When we’re out in public, strangers always ask my daughter where her mother is. ‘Right there,’ she says. ‘And I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.’
Before the pandemic, when bus travel was a thing, I’d constantly get referred to as ‘the wheelchair space’. People were surprised when I’d respond, ‘there’s a person in it.’ And my daughter pipes up, ‘that’s my mother.’
I’ve mostly always had a strong sense of self-acceptance. I’m so used to my disabled body, it’s so normal to me, that I was kind of surprised I had a non-disabled child.
I didn’t know how I would feel when she took her first steps. My happiness for her turned out uncomplicated, but my love for her isn’t based on her ability to walk.
She likes tap dancing, and when we read she sits with her ankle over her knee, because she can.
We have a family joke that when she stands on her tiptoes and twirls around, she’s just showing off.
My kid is so physical, and I am not. But I love her anyway.
My daughter isn’t a nicer human being because she has to make allowances for her disabled mother. She isn’t sad that I can’t run with her. She knows why and we do other things.
We laugh at the same things (but she likes farts more than I do) and watch movies and she says I’m good at bossing her around from my wheelchair. And we both scrunch up our noses when we’re mad, set our mouths the same way when we’re concentrating.
We go out and when she gets tired of walking I still carry her. Because I want to.
And because I have a lap she’ll never be too old to sit on.
And when there are places we can’t go as a family, she doesn’t wish I could walk. She only asks why there are more steps than ramps in the world.
I don’t have to cut the crusts off her sandwiches, I just have to make sure she eats.
I don’t have to drive her in the car to school and activities, I just have to make sure she gets there, when they’re back on.
I’m still the one who gives her hugs and then um, suggests might not want to fall between the furniture and break any bones.
And she’s the only person who’s allowed to suggest I try yoga.
This post originally appeared on the blog, Gin & Lemonade