New wheelchair

I stood with her preschool teacher and watched as Esther-Faith climbed into the “new” wheelchair. It wasn’t her chair, but a loaner while her chair was in the shop. Her chair is red. The loaner is blue. Her chair has a tiny embroidered ladybug on it that Mimi gave her the first day she had the chair. The blue chair had scratches and scrapes. Esther-Faith’s chair had the big wheels in the front and the little wheels in the back.

But all of that is changing.

Esther-Faith is growing. And her chair needs to grow.

If I had a dollar for every time another parent or grownup said things like, “Isn’t that a cute little buggy?!” Or, “That’s a neat stroller.” Or, “Must be handy to not have to carry her!” Well, I would be a rich woman. Sometimes, I wanted to say snotty things. But mostly, I just tried to smile and acknowledge that they didn’t really know what to say to a mom with a tiny child in a wheelchair. I chose to take comfort that they were talking to her (and me) at all. Lots (and lots) of other folks just walked big circles around us to avoid any kind of contact.

So, when I stood there with Katie on that Tuesday afternoon watching Esther-Faith learn a new way of navigation in a matter of seconds, it dawned on me, no one will ever confuse her wheelchair for a stroller again. It looks like a typical wheelchair. It is a typical wheelchair.

And while I initially felt a twinge of sadness, ultimately, I felt proud. Esther-Faith is so much more independent now that she can transition on her own. Even the seatbelt makes it easier for her to get in and out of her chair. This chair has a table that fits right over the arm rests for those evening we are watching a movie. Or those times the wheels of her chair don’t fit under the toddler tables at daycare or church or wherever.

And did I mention, she relearned wheelchair navigation in about one minute.

Carl, the wheelchair mechanic (and one of Esther-Faith’s new friends), is about the age of her grandpas. And Carl, seeing that she was actually excited to be getting a new wheelchair, taught her how to hold hands with a grownup and use her body to keep the chair going straight. They went for a walk. And now, I can walk beside my daughter and hold her hand while we walk. I don’t have to push her. She doesn’t have to feel separated from us. And all those times I wanted to hold her hand while we walked places, I get those now.

Slowly, we walked out of daycare yesterday. Holding hands.

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