By Melinda Munson
Last month at Mollie Walsh Park, I assaulted a four-year-old. It was with the best of intentions. I was at the swings with my 19-year-old, who is non-verbal and blind. There isn’t much in life he enjoys: oatmeal, live music and soaring on the swings.
When he sits on the plastic seat and starts pumping, legs flying higher than any other child, too high for my maternal instincts, I squash down my discomfort and allow him to enjoy the freedom. He doesn’t participate in soccer or go to prom, for him this is the pinnacle of existence.
I intentionally place him on an end swing and stand guard to make sure no little ones step in front of him. Without eyeballs, he won’t see them in time to stop, not that physics would allow cessation at that speed.
Somehow that day one little girl stepped too close. Panicked that she was about to lose her brains, I grabbed her arm and jerked her out of harm’s way.
“I’m sorry, honey,” I explained. “You were about to get kicked in the head.”
She immediately ran to her father at the other end of the park and reported my misdeed. Unable to leave my son who was still swinging enthusiastically, I asked a nearby local mother to talk to the dad and explain what had happened.
He never approached me so he must have accepted the incident report. The little girl did not. She continued to point at me and speak heatedly. I ran into that family several times that morning. Each time the girl narrowed her eyes, waved her arms at me and said something to express her displeasure.
Normally, I’m the person helping visitors have a wonderful experience in Skagway: greeting them at the dock with the newsies, giving directions, recommending where to eat lunch. I imagined this family might leave a Yahoo review praising Skagway except for the crazy lady at the park who abuses small children.
The episode made me question the appropriateness of having my son on the swings. While he needs help toileting and showering like a toddler, I shave his face every other day. On the rare occasion he stands up straight, I think he’s taller than me.
Being the mom of a child/adult with special needs means always wondering when they’ve reached the point of giving something up. Is this the year my daughter stops trick or treating? Is it okay to keep participating in the Easter egg hunt when you’re in your 20s? I live in a strange reality where I’m teaching my dependent adult children to pay rent and at the same time emphasizing that Harry Potter is just pretend. It’s hard asking grown up children to relinquish childhood pursuits when they don’t fully comprehend the world around them.
We decided to organize our own egg hunt next year with beeping eggs and blindfolds for sighted participants. Halloween will be a Harry Potter marathon with a bowl full of chocolate.
I don’t think we’ll ever give up the swings. I’ll continue to stand watch to protect your kids, but my son deserves this one sliver of the park, no matter how old he is.