The Hardest Age

When you’re disabled and you’re a parent, you have a very different take on what ages are the hardest and why they’re the hardest. That’s been true for me anyway.

Today my twins are in the throes of what I consider to be my hardest age. They’re 2 1/2 years old. They are energetic, curious, determined, smart, brave, and adventurous. They have 2 very healthy bodies with 2 sets of very strong legs that love to RUN. They run fast, they climb, they jump. They do everything that I cannot do.

Taking them anywhere that doesn’t involve a shopping cart with two secure seat straps is a major undertaking. It’s downright scary, to be honest. My faithful old double stroller does it’s best to hold onto the combined weight of nearly 60 pounds of writhing toddlers. I still stow it in my van, always ready just in case. Do the twins like being in the stroller? Nope. They hate it. Especially Felicity.

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Us at the farmers market, a place I’d never try to go without the stroller. Felicity was trying hard to escape. LOL

I knew this day would come and I’ve dreaded it. Big time! For me, AMC affects my legs more than anything. I have a dislocated hip, my ankles and knees have almost no movement. I have almost no muscle in my calves. My feet and knees hurt a lot. I’m in chronic pain 100% of the time. Sometimes people see me pushing a stroller full of heavy kids and think how hard it must be. The truth is, I lean on that stroller for support. When my legs get tired or my ankles are throbbing, it’s a blessing to have something to lean on.

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Last year, looking for bluebonnets

We’ve ventured out on short walks when I am feeling up to it. The girls are learning to hold hands and stay near Mommy. It’s still very much a learning process and I’d never attempt it without Connor’s help. He’s a designated hand holder and twin chaser. Thank God for a helpful older child who is able bodied! He’s a lifesaver.

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The ideal setting: a short path surrounded by trees, far away from the street

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The beach is one of the safest places we’ve let kids run free. No cars 🙂

Felicity is my wild child. She’s the one who will always run off and run fast. I’ve had many people advise me to put the girls on leashes or in harnesses. I am close to giving that a try! My biggest worry is that they will get upset, throw a fit, and writhe on the ground while we’re far away from the car. We had this happen once at church, and carrying Felicity back to the van by myself just about killed my back.

I hate thinking about how much my kids miss out on simply because I cannot physically handle this challenge. If I had only one toddler to keep hold of, it would be easier. But having twin toddlers when you have a disability is really hard. I can’t carry them both. I can’t chase them. I hate saying “I can’t” but unfortunately, there are some things I just can’t do.

I’m trying to enjoy this age, despite everything. I remember going through the same thing with Connor, and looking back, it was a relatively short stage.

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Life is always easier when Daddy is with us to help 🙂

Having kids when you’re disabled is a major lesson in humility. I can’t take my kids on play dates without praying through the overwhelming fear and shame I know will come when I have to keep my toddlers strapped into their stroller or have my 6 year old constantly help me chase them down. I definitely feel like a bad mom even though it’s not my fault. It sucks to have strangers run over and catch your toddler before she runs into the parking lot or jumps into the lake. Things like that make me want to stay at home every day and not hang out with other moms in public because it’s always really humiliating.

Has anyone else ever had this experience? I really wish I had some awesome advice about how to overcome this particular issue. Unfortunately, I think it’s one of those stages you just have to survive and get through. We keep teaching them how to stay with mom and dad, to hold hands, to watch for cars, to not run off, to be careful. One day they will get it. In the meantime, they’re 2. I have to swallow a huge amount of pride and still let them explore and be curious, because the last thing I want as a disabled mom is to cripple my children in any way.

So…yeah I am sure plenty of strangers out there see me and think I’m not doing a good job. A trip to the park sometimes feels like climbing Mt Everest for me, especially when it ends in me sweating and panting as I drag an uncooperative toddler back to the car. Sometimes I’m in extra pain for days afterward. It’s frustrating but hopefully worth it.

My son is learning to be aware of the needs of others and to help. He has learned to respond quickly when he’s needed. He’s learned to be aware of strangers and where his sisters are at all times. He’s become a great multi-tasker. 🙂

I’m thankful that even at age 6, he hasn’t yet said anything about why isn’t Mommy normal, and why can’t Mommy do certain things. I know that day will come and I know it will break my heart a little. But I hope he’ll see that Mommy tried really hard and did a lot of things with them.

We always try to seek out parks and nature walks that are in a gated area or at least far away from any traffic. That’s a challenge for the most part, and on a regular basis I find myself wishing someone would build playgrounds designed to make parents’ lives a little easier. 🙂

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My kids enjoying the indoor play area at the mall. This is another ideal, safe place for us to go!

I’m on a mission this year. My girls will be turning 3 in May, and I’m determined that 2016 will be the year we get out more. I’m currently shopping around for harnesses to try out on the girls. That’s another thing I find very different about parenting with a disability: most moms are against putting kids on leashes like they’re a dog. 🙂 I’d rather be frowned upon for the leash than stay home all the time or chase my kid into traffic, so we’re excited to try out the leash! I’ll share the results soon hopefully.

My mom bought us a zoo membership for Christmas and I want to make the most of it. I know my husband will not want to accompany us to the zoo every week, so let’s see how well I can handle it on my own. 🙂

If you are a parent with a disability or other physical challenge, and have any advice on this subject, PLEASE share. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “The Hardest Age

  1. Tara,
    I just want to encourage you. I have no idea what that far is like. I can tell you I had a lot of dear taking Olivia out at that age and my only physical problem is that I’m overweight.
    I believe you are incredibly insightful in your determination to get them out despite your limitations. You are brave, so much more brave than most. You are strong and purposeful in your parenting. Keep it up. You can get through this stage. It is temporary.
    I only wish I lived closer so I could help on those outings. But since I’m not, keep your chin up. You are excelling where most people would fail. And it is so worth it.

    Like

  2. I gave in to a leash backpack with Matthew even though people frowned upon it. I would rather have my son safe and on a leash than ran over by a car or kidnapped. He is 4 1/2 and still runs from me in the store. I am seriously considering getting the leash back out. Don’t feel guilty about not taking the kids on more activities. You do so many activities at home that the kids will remember and Connor is learning to be the BEST daddy one day.

    Like

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