We were at a birthday party for some good friends. Everyone knows us. Everyone knows Emma. These are really easy places to socialize because I don't get the pity look - the oh, poor thing in a wheelchair look. None of us want pity because our life is no something to be pitied. I also don't get the somewhat ridiculous question of "Will she ever walk?" Truth be told, I'm not too concerned with Emma walking and would rather she start talking - now that would change her life!
The birthday party was the kind where there were bouncy castles and houses all over. All of them in primary colors and you can't help but smile when you walk in. It fills the children with energy and there is lots of laughter and squeals all around. It's a happy place and we love happy places!
We've been to these kinds of places before and Emma loves the bouncy fun. But this time the bounce houses weren't adult friendly. The size and navigation of them were made strictly for children so I couldn't take Emma through them without likely hurting myself. There was one large structure that was made for littler children, but since Emma isn't crawling she couldn't really navigate through and it wasn't so exciting to her. We were able to make one of the large bounce houses work - I put Emma in through the opening and laid her on her back like we usually do and when the children bounced around she was bounced. She smiled the whole time and really giggled when the children bounced over her while being careful not to fall on her. For all the other structures, though, she had to look at all the fun from the side.
I think Emma really wanted to go on the large bounce slide. She squealed with delight each time we went over to watch her sister slide down and I felt bad that I couldn't take her on it. Actually, I'm not sure I could have navigated the slide on my own let alone while carrying a 5 year old! I also felt bad that she was looking on lots of the fun from the outside and I started to wonder what it would be like if she could walk. What it would be like watching her climb up the slide wall and squealing with delight as she slid down.
Then I wondered if it would have been better if I didn't bring her to the party and I realized it was my hurting heart that brought me to that question. Me not wanting to feel how different my little girl is when in a roomful of children and cheery bouncy houses.
But I know that wouldn't be fair to Emma. When looking at her in that room she was all smiles. Enjoying watching the children run around, bounce, squeal, hula hoop, climb the rock wall. She enjoyed every minute of it even if she couldn't physically participate in the fun. She was able to participate by just being there. By being happy in the moment. By experiencing joy.
I say it again and again - I learn a lot from my children. So I finally decided to take my cue from Emma and just enjoy the moment and not get caught up in the what ifs. To live life to the fullest and full of joy no matter the obstacles. Thank you, Emma, for the reminder!
Kristina is the mother of two charming daughters and wife to a wonderful man who puts up will all her wild ideas. She works to raise awareness of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and preventing CMV exposure during pregnancy. Kristina graduated from the national Partners in Policymaking program in September 2010 and is an advocate for disability rights and inclusion education. You can read more at howlifehappens.blogspot.com