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Sometimes All You Need to do is Ask: Easter Eggs + Wheelchairs.

My family lives in a condominium community within a quaint, walkable neighborhood. We love our town. *big heart emoji*


The larger neighborhood of which we are a part is managed by a Home Owners Association. (And as an aside: we are among the people who like living in an HOA as we appreciate that it holds everyone to certain standards ensuring continued vibrancy and liveability within our neighborhood in the long term.)


A couple of months ago, our HOA announced that they would host an Easter Egg Hunt for all ages at a large city park a few blocks from our home.


It's a nice park. It's cute and quaint and features a little playground and a vintage-looking, white bandstand. It's exactly the type of park you would expect in a small town.


But for the wheelchair accessible rubber pad on which the playground rests, however, the park is nearly all grass. So, by default, most of the park is not accessible for my little wheelchair-using six-year-old. Any activity planned on grass would, by design, place him at an extraordinary disadvantage.


I knew this. And like any typical child raised on a 1990s schedule of an Easter Weekend, packed into a mid-size, speeding around town from hunt to hunt, I anticipated this Egg Hunt would be planned in the traditional fashion of a bunch of eggs scattered widely on the grass in anticipation of a free-for-all, fastest-moving-most-aggressive-kid-wins-out type of situation.


I planned for my kids to participate anyway.


There were age group divisions for my youngest (ages 0-3) and my oldest (ages 4-6). There was even a planned division for "teens & adults," and I planned to dress for the occasion in the case that my participation was warranted.


I figured that, if my oldest fell victim to the ruthlessness of the rude masses of other 4-to-6-year-olds educated on any icky all-or-nothing, win-at-any-cost principles, at the very least, being the special kind of asshole that I am and raised on those same win-at-any-cost principles, I could send a message to those parents, if they too chose to run in the adult division, through my sheer shit-headedness and vulgar competitive spirit. (Happy Easter, peace out, my friends.)


That is how the whole situation played out in my Mama Bear mind, anyway.



And I fretted for weeks about this situation.


"How protective would I need to be? How protective could I be?"


"What should I do if another kid swoops in to grab an egg my son is clearly struggling to reach from atop his chair? What is the allowed response in that situation?"


"What if some kid pushes his wheelchair out of the way? Do I allow my son to protect himself, or do I position my body strategically to block further assault from the other child?"


"Do I have 'words' with those parents, or do I send in my far more politically-correct spouse as a first-line of defense?"


Like I said, I grew up on 90s Easter Egg Hunts and rub-some-dirt-on-it, Boomer-style parenting. I can throw-down.


In the meantime, I decided to buy a big bag of plastic eggs on my own to bring with me to the event in order to salt the field around my son. I asked my husband to pull a wad of ones from the bank, so, if the situation presented itself, I could stare down a kid or two while casually dropping dollar bills in front of my son to "find" on his hunt.


(My husband, in all of this and perhaps rightly so, assumed I had actually lost my mf'n mind.)


I am not -- in any way -- being overly dramatic when I tell you that I STRESSED over this event. For weeks!! A month. Even longer....


I obsessed over this damn community Easter egg hunt.


I had plans for the what-ifs and contingency plans in case the initial what-ifs turned into what-thens.


All of it to ensure that my kid could happily participate with fairness in the type of event that has never been designed with fairness in mind.


I did not want his feelings hurt.


So, instead of doing the most reasonable thing, I stressed...


... When all I really had to do, was ask.


 

A few days before the event, I visited the HOA Facebook page where they had shared the information and flyer, and I made a comment:


"Will there be a space cordoned off for an adaptive division, by any chance?"


Within an hour, I had a Facebook message from one of our HOA Board Members, asking for more information. She provided the contact information for the event organizer and mentioned that she had already forwarded the question.


The event organizer responded almost immediately to my email, letting me know they were looking into it. I received a second email later in the day, telling me they were, in fact, going to accommodate an adaptive area for my son and any other child with a disability.


All I had to do was ask.


This is not always the case, of course.


Many times, you ask, and the answer is no.

But often, the answer is something like, "Oh, we hadn't considered it. Let's see what we can do."


As the mom of a child with a disability who requires adaptive supports and inclusive thinking for participation in community events, it is not wrong to get all up in my feels and come out fists a-swingin' in full Mama Bear costume.


I have been worn down and am now experienced in this world of non-inclusion. I have seen my kid excluded time and time again. My family has been excluded. I am tired of asking for accommodations. I am tired of asking whether or not an event is inclusive. I am tired of deciding to forego an event because I know a gathering space is not accessible.


And, all I had to do was ask.


It would be nice to live in a world where we do not need to continually shoulder the labor of asking for inclusion, of advocating for the right of all kids to fairly participate, and still...


It was as easy as asking.


I could have saved myself a lot of stress. I could have avoided the worrying. I could have foregone the non-stop preparation of what-ifs in my head, if I had simply decided to keep asking and advocating for inclusion.


It is the lesson that I keep on learning.

It is a lesson that -- I have no doubt -- I will need to learn, again and again, ongoing.

And that is okay. Learning is always good, even when it is the same lesson on repeat.


 

Epilogue


After all of that stress, and then, preparation for that adaptive division of miniature Easter egg hunters on wheels, my son ended up in the hospital over that same weekend with a broken femur.


As luck and bad timing would have it, we didn't even make it to the event. And, that is so us....


Alas.


Perhaps next year is our year.


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