Friday, February 19, 2021

A letter to Playmobil.

Dear Playmobil,

My children are grown -- three adults and a teenager -- but I ordered toys from your company this week. A dear dear friend alerted me to your CityLife set and the boy with crutches. When I went to your site to see this wonder for myself, I saw the wheelchair set. I promptly ordered them both.

See, once upon a time, completely unprepared and without time to educate myself, my family was thrust into a world of leg braces, walkers, crutches, and ultimately, wheelchairs. Years have passed since those early days. But I can still feel in my gut the strong overwhelming need to color these as tools for my sons -- tools for achieving goals rather than objects that might make them seem different, or impede them in anyway....

The first time they were fitted for orthotics (leg braces), Mason got red padding, Benjamin blue -- as triplets they each had a color and the boys chose accordingly. But both had ribbon with puppy dogs on the velcro fasteners. And so instead of orthotics (toddlers couldn't really say that well) or braces (yech.), I called them "puppy dog shoes". I wanted to spin those little hard plastic supports into something desirable, something fun. Years later when the boys had graduated to having super heroes on their orthotics, we still called them puppy dog shoes.....

Likewise, when the therapist brought two little forearm crutches for Mason to try, I knew immediately I didn't want to use the word crutch with all the negative connotations. And so we called them Power Sticks. Even in adulthood, Mason refers to them as his sticks....just a shortened version of our lifelong moniker for them.

As eager as I was to rename our equipment to give a positive spin, I was equally frantic to find positive examples of people using puppy dog shoes, power sticks, wheelchairs.  It was almost impossible.

Franklin the Turtle had a friend who used Power Sticks. I purchased every single book I could find about that turtle in the hope that his friend would appear. We learned McDonald's had miniature Barbie dolls in their Happy Meals and one of these used a wheelchair. We sent our grandmother to McDonald's for her lunch every day until we acquired the toy. And we stumbled across a Rescue Hero action figure who used a wheelchair. We have kept that toy to this day.

So when your toys arrived in my mail today I cried. I want to send them to every child I know in an effort to normalize power sticks and wheelchairs. But I don't want to stop there. I want to hand them to every mom whose child has received a diagnosis that has whisked her into a world filled with an assortment of letters of the alphabet (CP, PT, OT, MRI, CT, ECG....) that probably meant little to her before but now mean everything. 

And while I am wishing -- can I ask you to keep going? I love the set -- the therapist pushing the wheelchair gives me an Occupational Therapist representing the triplet sister who is driven to help other families like ours. And perhaps the cute doctor with a ponytail will be my baby girl, Cate who wants to work with premature babies like her siblings were (she's only 15, so she has room to grow and learn, and change her plans.). 

But guess what? Young people in wheelchairs do so much more than go to therapy! 

Sometimes they go to college, sometimes they perform in plays, sometimes they write the plays, sometimes they change the world.

And young men with power sticks? They can use those sticks for impromptu microphones, they can go on archaeological dig sites, and they can leave the world better than they found it!

So thank you, Playmobil. Really. You have made me so happy. But please don't stop now. Please. I am begging you to use your toys, your creativity, your platform to spread awareness. You have an opportunity with these toys to show that there is power in power sticks! You have the chance to show there is adventure in wheelchairs.

I can't wait to see what you do next!!!

Carol - The Blessings Counter