…So I nearly cried in a children’s playground today…
Let me fill you in…
I have a love-hate relationship for school holidays, I love spending more time with G, but hate that immense pressure I feel to do stuff to keep her busy all the time. Today I decided to take a trip to our local garden centre as it is walking distance, its small and has a great play area.
Today that small garden centre was packed!
Every single parent in the local vicinity must have had the same idea as me. I could feel my worry about whether she would be able to cope or whether she might get hurt creep into my mind.
As I got G out of her wheelchair pram, I could feel myself getting self-conscious, feel eyes on me as I got her out. I tried to ignore that feeling that can wash over me of feeling different. And just spoke to G about what she would like to do.
However, she was transfixed. All the children running around, having fun grabbed her attention and she just stood still, statue-like, with her head cocked to the side watching everyone.
She was motionless.
Again I could feel eyes on me, people momentarily picking up on the stillness of my child juxtaposed against the canvas of bubbling energy of the other children. I called her to get her attention but she couldn’t hear me, she was still mesmerised.
Eventually, she started to move aimlessly towards the sand pit where I manoeuvred her to a bucket and spade and tried to engage with her. But she was soaking in all the children, half wary and half excited.
She half-heartedly played in the sand before deciding she wanted to go on the slide. She wanted to go to the slide as a little girl that had been in the sand pit had gone there too.
The little girl, older than G had spoken to her very briefly but to G that meant she had a friend. She followed her to the slide, but the girl totally oblivious to her ran around and played with the kids around her.
G tried to follow them up the slide but by the time she reached the top they were at the bottom. By the time she reached the bottom they had run a lap around the area and were climbing stones.
G was behind.
She tried to call them without knowing their names. An incoherent sound coming from her lips. They innocently had no realisation she was trying to engage with them and so ignored her.
My heart ached.
Again I tried to gain Gs attention, draw her into play as quite clearly it wasn’t being recognised or reciprocated, but she ignored me. She wanted to play with the children.
And I wanted her to play with them too.
She continued to try and follow them and shrieked in delight as they jumped and climbed the obstacles, but she gained backwards glances and confused looks from the children around her. I felt protective of her feelings but didn’t want to stop her from trying. So opted to divert her attention by taking her to look at some fish. So off we went to view some tropical fish.
Inside the aquarium were lots of tanks to look at, an array of cold and tropical fish.
G was not interested.
She was excited by the children inside. She stood next to a group of children as they excitedly pointed and gasped at the fish, G imitated them.
It was intriguing to watch how she was trying to mimic them to be apart of their group. The children hardly noticed her and chatted amongst themselves.
She was ignored again. I felt a heat rising inside me wanting to plead with these children to acknowledge, to let her in.
I felt powerless.
A boy, who was slightly older maybe 7 or 8, who was part of the group, made a comment to me about what would happen if the fish managed to escape and flood the room. He reasoned that we would all need to swim to safety but once outside the doors we’d be fine. I agreed with his musings and gently laughed at his innocent thoughts. He moved to another fish tank and G followed him.
I wanted to whisk her away for fear he may say something mean. But he chatted away in an innocuous fashion about the fish he could see.
G took that as he was talking to her and so she replied with equal enthusiasm and copied his inflexions. He looked at her curiously and said“I don’t know what you’re saying”.
G just carried on smiling and chatting. She clearly didn’t understand him either but she liked that he was talking to her.
After a few minutes, we left the aquarium. I wanted to leave the garden centre completely but she wanted to play on the slide again. This time, she was more confident and went up and down at her own pace. Kids whizzed past, played together, but G was on her own. She looked at every child expectantly and she willed them to look at her as she wanted to play with them but they didn’t.
I could feel tears brimming waiting to be released. It wasn’t fair. She was alone, I was alone and I couldn’t help her.
I was ready to make a hasty escape when the little boy from the aquarium joined the slide. Gs face lit up. I thought he was going to ignore her as there were lots of little boys running about. But Isaac (as I heard someone call him) decided he wanted to play with G. He slid down the slide with ease and turned around and ran back up the slide all the while G would be racing around as fast as she could to get up the stairs to meet him.
He would wait for her 🙂
He would let other children pass and save her a spot so they could slide down together.
I was astonished.
This carried on for a while until he got a bit bored and started climbing nearby rocks – but he would try and bring G! He tried to get her involved in different ways he tried pushing her bottom first up the slide! Tried helping her climb up the side with the rope. He played in the sandpit with her.
He was happy to play with her.
And she was happy to play with him.
My tears were back. I wanted to grab this kid and thank him for the happiness he was giving her. He had kerbed, albeit temporarily, my internal sadness and worry for her ability to make friends.
He came over to me a little later and said, “Your little girl is so cute”.
He didn’t see her disability. Her differences. He saw cuteness and he wanted to play. I wanted to find his parents and say thank you! But reasoned I would come across strange!
We stayed a while longer and then we had to leave. As we left I said to say “bye” to Isaac, which G did, with sadness. He too was sad as he asked me if we were coming back, which we weren’t.
I was sad for her, as she had enjoyed playing. I was sad as this may not happen again. But I was happy that at least today we left with her having had a good time.
I’m so so thankful to that little boy. He stopped what was fast becoming a painful outing into something more hopeful.