I carried my daughter with one arm, her arms wrapped tight around my neck. With my other arm I carried the double inner tube as we slowly made our way to the top of the water slide. My inner tube kept hitting yours, I know you were annoyed, and I apologize.
It would have been easier to put my daughter down, I agree with you, as I noticed how you glared at me for having her perched on my hip. But she has cerebral palsy, and the climb was too much, too high. And I guess I am one of those mothers, the kind that won’t let her daughter miss out on the small pleasures of life because of disability.
When we were a step away from the landing, I pushed the inner tube to the side.
“I am so sorry” I said to you, as once again my inner tube pushed yours.
You didn’t respond with words, but I could see in your eyes you were bothered as you moved your tube away from us. It’s true, the eyes are a window to our emotions.
Then you watched as I put my daughter down.
“Okay sweetheart, hold on real tight okay, don’t let go. Wait here until it’s our turn and I will carry you to the tube.”
That’s when you noticed the way she stands, and how her knees bend a little so she can balance. I watched as your eyes travelled the length of her legs, and you took in the scars that show for the many surgeries she has had. You recognized she wasn’t a typical little girl, she had a disability, and there was a reason I had carried her up all those steps.
You looked straight at me and you smiled a sad smile. It only took that one look for me to see pity all over your face. I think I preferred your annoyance over your pity. I don’t want your pity.
I want you to acknowledge that my daughter is a child first. Your daughter was jumping in anticipation of the ride, mine was just as excited to go down the slide.
I want you to notice her smile, and the fact that her cerebral palsy had little to do with this moment of fun.
I want you to smile at her, and maybe ask, “Are you excited to go down the slide?”
And when you smile at me, I want it to be a real smile, because we’re both mothers, getting in big inner tubes with our little girls; and whooping and hollering as we go down.
I don’t want your pity over what you don’t understand, because our lives are rich and full. She is a little girl with more gumption and determination than you and I will ever have. She is a fighter and a champion in my eyes. And here she is, on a fun family vacation, walking around the water-park holding on to my hand, like many other kids.
And I don’t think that is worthy of pity, on the contrary, it is worthy of respect.