Back home we live in our own world: You go to school in a town far away and I take you to quiet places where few people go, like the park early in the morning or swimming much later after dinner.
Here we can’t do that.
Here it is obvious that I am blessed with a different child.
Caravan parks don’t isolate the disabled children like education does. Caravan parks don’t give you preferential treatment or appointments like the health service does. Caravan park restaurants won’t let you order mashed potato for breakfast like I make you at home. Here you are the same, but different. A bit like the caravans which on the surface all seem similar yet every single one is different.
When we arrive and unpack those around see I am blessed with a different child even before I park the car. There you sit in the back flapping with excitement and chewing on the nose of your cuddly toy. It’s not something 9 year olds do really and you look…odd.
I forget that others see you and stare. It makes me uncomfortable and reminds me why I don’t take you out as often as I should.
Is taking a disabled child to a busy caravan park in the summer holidays the right thing to do?
I think it is.
I take you to the on-site pool. Other 9 year olds are swimming unaided, playing with friends, drying and dressing themselves and doing hand stands in the water. You are lead by the hand by your mum, still using swimming nappies and a rubber ring and you giggle just sitting at the side dipping your feet in the shallow toddler splash pool. You are every bit as happy as all the other children, just in a different way.
I watch you and smile. Being blessed with a different child has taught me to enjoy your happiness every single day. As I look about I notice a life guard watching and smiling. Your different-ness has made them smile too.
I take you to the busy park. Other parents sit nearby chatting and drinking. I am lifting your legs, guiding you to the steps each time, and encouraging you down the smallest of slides so that children 7 years younger than you can take their turn. You make happy baby noises and wave your hands with excitement. Some parents move their children away, some children leave of their own decision but some carry on regardless. I am not embarrassed by my child but I am embarrassed at how others respond to him.
What’s so bad about seeing someone blessed with a different child?
Being in a busy caravan park with a child who is noticeably different to his peers has made me realise something:
My child is not the issue, the issue is how others respond.
I have not helped my son or my community by going to places others don’t. So from now on I promise to change that.
I am blessed with a different child and I won’t hide that anymore. If he wants to swim at peak times that’s where I will take him. If the park is busy what have I got to be afraid of?
I’m done with the isolation. If I can cope with a busy caravan park in summer season with a nine year old who can’t dress himself, can’t speak, can’t jump and still eats with his fingers then I can do the same back home. If he has a seizure in public so what? If he has a meltdown why should I apologise? He is a child just like any other child. He is beautiful, funny, full of mischief and entitled to play just like any other child.
I thought I was making things easier for my son by protecting him from comments and stares but in reality I have made both more likely because children like my son need to be seen more to be accepted more.
I am blessed with a different child and it’s about time the world saw a lot more of him!
I’m so glad I took him to a busy caravan park in the height of summer season. It gave me confidence and delight to be the one blessed with the different child.