Friday, January 05, 2007

Letter to Parents Regarding “Ski Poles”

Over and over, I have seen the same reaction from other parents. These are people in my own family as well as friends of mine, not strangers. What happens is their kid takes Jordan’s “ski poles” (forearm crutches) and starts to play with them. The parent, who seemed to not even be watching what their child was doing for the past half hour, suddenly shouts in a tremulous voice, “GIVE THEM BACK TO JORDAN! THEY’RE NOT TOYS!!!”

I know that everyone thinks Jordan really needs the ski poles to get by, but if he doesn't have them for a minute, it's FINE. A few things:

First, I actually kind of LIKE it when another kid takes them and plays with them because it shows that they are normal, not anything to be scared of or think is weird. If your kids see them as something normal and maybe even something “cool,” then maybe you should, too.

Also, kids only take them when he's not using them, when they're sitting on the floor unused. They couldn't steal them out of his hands if he didn't want them to have them. He has very strong arms and hands, I’d say stronger than most kids because he relies on them more than other kids do. Also, he genuinely thinks he is a PIRATE and is very good at swordfighting. He would use the ski poles as swords to avoid having them stolen from him when he’s using them.

So then the point is that when kids take them, it's a time he isn't actually using them and doesn't need them. He is occupied with something else. He doesn’t use these ski poles 24 hours a day. He likes to stand at tables and play or sit on the floor or sit on chairs, the sofa, you know, just like other people.

So if by chance your child should kick him while he’s walking with the ski poles, steal them out of his hands and run away with them, as he lies crying on the floor—helloooo, he would not do this; he would LAUGH that someone tricked him—then yes, I guess it does warrant a tremulous voice and a “They’re not toys!!!”

But if your child does the only thing we’ve seen so far, which is take them when Jordan isn’t even using them, then just please act like it’s Jordan’s favorite toy truck—yell at them like it’s that, not like it’s some sacred object that they’ve stolen. They’re not sacred—Jordan got along before he had them, and he’ll get along even if all the ski poles in the universe are suddenly destroyed.

Bringing me to another point: Parents often say, "You're going to break them!!" If your child can bend or break metal, then I'd like to see him try!

I thought at first when I saw this overreaction by other parents that they were upset because they were picturing their own child using the crutches and didn’t want to think about that. But I have since realized that other parents probably don’t think that way. The do genuinely want Jordan to have his ski poles back. Plus, the thought probably never crosses their mind that their child would ever need to use objects to walk with. Must be nice.

But It’s not so bad, you know. It’s a great accomplishment for Jordan to be using these walking sticks. When I see him walking around the house or the mall or the yard with the ski poles, I think of the five surgeries, the first year of his life spent almost entirely in casts, and I don’t get upset that he’s using the poles. I am overjoyed to see how happy he is having this independence.