Thursday, January 9, 2020

Flat tires and Accessible Playgrounds.

It was the third day of kindergarten. The first two days had been rainy-have-recess-inside kind of days. But on the third day, the sun was shining so it didn't make sense that for the first time my three little so-excited-to-be-going-to-school kindergarteners got in the van subdued, sad even. And then Mason started crying:

"I couldn't do it, Mommy. I couldn't play!"

Me: "What do you mean you couldn't play?"

Mason: "I can't get to the playground. The teachers told me I couldn't."

More crying.

And though more than a few years have passed, I remember  turning around in my driver's seat as if it happened yesterday and looking this cute little usually-smiling-boy in the eyes and telling him I would fix it. 

Mommy would fix it.

I barely had the trio unloaded from the van before I was on the phone with the principal asking why in the world Mason would be told NOT to go to the playground.

I listened as she described how the old old playground was built down in a gully and the teachers did not think Mason and his power sticks could or should make the trek. They were trying to keep him safe she said. 

The school district had assured her the long-term plan was to build a new playground in the flat easy-to-access area directly behind the school. I asked for a contact to call to urge this date being sped up.

The district assured me it would happen.  But probably not in time for my boys to enjoy it.

But see, I told my Mason that I would fix it. And five years into motherhood, I intended to do just that.

So I had a face-to-face meeting with the principal and asked her to allow me to raise the money for an accessible playground. It took an amazing team, some precious children emptying their piggy banks, and in the end a playground company who gave us a huge discount on the equipment they had assembled to photograph for their catalog, but we built an accessible playground before the triplets started first grade!!

Ribbon cutting for the Hand by Hand Accessible Playground!!!

And perhaps that success falsely set me up to believe I would be able to fix whatever came our way. 

Tonight we had a flat tire in the accessible van. It isn't our first flat. It wasn't even the most scary (ask me sometime about the flat Wade had to change on the side of the interstate in the middle of the Arizona desert with eighteen-wheelers and rattlers too close for comfort.....) But it is one of the coldest nights we have had this winter, and we don't have a spare (stupid conversion didn't allow for one) and so we could have waited for hours for a tow truck or taken Benjamin from his wheelchair into a rescuing vehicle (Claire took an Uber home to get the other car.) and wait to deal with the flat in the warmth of the sun tomorrow. So we opted for the latter.

And so it was with already frazzled nerves that I listened to Benjamin's Personal Care Attendant (PCA) work to ready him for bed tonight. I have spent the last two months training this PCA on how to care for my son. This week her supervisors came in to do another training with her because of my concern that she just isn't getting it. I thought tonight that perhaps I make her nervous. So I sat in my family room desperately attempting not to intervene. And that worked right up until Benjamin yelled for me. He was in his lift but the straps were backwards causing him to be in a terribly uncomfortable and probably unsafe position. I just took over and did the rest of the transfer myself. I probably sighed a lot too.

If in his lift correctly, Benjamin is sitting upright enjoying the ride!

And so as I tried to calm myself after Benjamin was safely in bed, I kept hearing a phrase in my head on a loop -- I will fix this. I will fix the van. I will fix the PCA situation. I will just do it myself if I have to. I will fix it.

And the reality of dealing with the tow truck and figuring out where to even have it towed for tire service in this new place, coupled with the agency urging me to make it work with this PCA is threatening to overwhelm me tonight. I can't help but doubt my ability to fix....

But I remember the playground. I remember that a not-so-pleasant woman urged the PTA to refuse to let our fundraising efforts be under their umbrella. I remember the woman who called me after we were on the news and she insisted that she would ONLY give money if Benjamin and Mason were the only children allowed on the playground. I spent one hour convincing her that the whole point was allowing them to play WITH their friends!

And I remember that we were short thousands of dollars when the playground company called and offered me the photo-assembled playground for almost exactly the amount we had raised.

See, it is with a deep deep sigh that I realize that our playground success did not set me up to falsely believe I could fix it all....rather, I think the God-given success of the playground was God's way of boosting my confidence to tackle the hard, to fight the wrongs, and to advocate for my crew no matter what. 

No matter that they are adults. No matter that the stupid tire is flat. I'll be here tackling it all -- as long as they need me to.

Carol - The Blessings Counter