an article jumped out at me on my Facebook feed and I found myself agreeing so strongly as I read it that I wanted to share it here, and write a bit about why exactly I'm sharing it.
Not that long ago I was sitting at a table with one of Maggie's social workers (Yes. She has more than one. There are actually three that I talk to on a semi- regular basis, because two doctors' offices we go to have their own social workers, and then she has one assigned to her by the state too). She asked me if I'd considered getting handicapped tags for our car, and said that she really thought I should talk to Mae's doctor about it and get the paper work for the DMV, because crossing a parking lot by myself with the kids is perilous with Mae's tendency towards "wandering."
Sometimes I don't think "wandering" does justice to exactly what it is that we're talking about when I use that word. It's a tendency to take off at a sprint at the slightest opening and run and run and run as fast as her little legs will carry her without looking over her shoulder to see if I'm following, or around her to see if a car is backing up.
It hasn't happened since December. I don't let go of her when we're outside unless we're in an entirely fenced in space. The last time it happened we were walking across a Christmas tree field in the pitch black. Paul had a flashlight. We were on our way home from Sadie's troop's hayride and campfire and Maggie kept kicking off her shoe and then when she'd stop to put it back on I'd let go of her hand and she'd take the opening to run off into the darkness.
The time before that was this summer in a church parking lot. I hurt myself so badly catching her that I could hardly walk for the rest of my pregnancy with James and had to be seen by ortheopedic specialist weekly. But I caught her. At least I caught her.
Realizing that she'd run and run and run in a strange place she'd never been to before, on a dark, icy night, was and is incredibly frightening to think about. Realizing she'd sprint into a parking lot... even more so.
And so parking lots are treacherous.
I don't go to the store by myself with the kids if I can avoid it. I plot expeditions with them like I'm preparing to go on a cross country trip. I go over getting out of the car and into a building fifty times in my head if I know I'm going to have to do it later in the day.
And I tell myself that I shouldn't be as afraid as I am, because, as people tell me, usually quoting a Bible verse, "We're not supposed to be anxious" but the very real image of my little girl being hit by a car, or running faster than I can catch her and falling into a stream, and being so confused and frightened and in pain, is without a doubt my greatest fear. Just typing those words has tears running down my cheeks.
So I am vigilant.
But I haven't asked for the paper work from her doctor yet.
The reason probably sounds silly. Ready? Here goes.
I'm just not sure if I'm ready for that level of hostility in parking lots too. I've gotten looks and had people shake their head at me when we dare leave the narthex to come forward for communion during Mass, on days when her vocalizations are a little more exuberant because she's so excited that she's there to see Jesus (to be fair, most people are very kind... but it happens... and it hurts...). Having people turn or stare in the grocery store pretty much rolls off my back at this point. The things people have said in the waiting room at our old doctor's office were pretty horrible and played a large roll in switching doctors the moment our insurance changed.
I even thought of certain articles and posts I've read in the past accusing people without wheel chairs of not really needing those spots. And I swallowed hard, because I absolutely wouldn't want to take a spot that someone else needs but at the same time I do kind of, sort of, feel like we need one too. The danger is very, very real to me. My daughter could dart in front of a car and die. Is that a good enough reason?
I'm sure I'll build up the courage soon. Spring is coming and with it Mae's love of wide open spaces is sure to expand. I have to call the social worker from the new doctor's office this week anyway, to go over the "care plan" they sent me in the mail last week, so maybe I'll bring it up then.
And so I end with a plea. Please. When you see someone getting out of their car with a handicapped placard and they look able bodied, please don't immediately make a negative assumption. Please don't write a nasty note or go over to lecture them. Don't even give them a dirty look. You can't really know what they're battling and why a doctor somewhere decided they needed that tag on their car.
Let's give each other the benefit of the doubt and be a little kinder and more compassionate about both the visible and invisible battles that we're all fighting and the challenges that we each face. The challenges aren't always obvious but often times they're still there.