I'm re-publishing this column as part of my online blog. I still believe the message is appropriate today and is an example of the activities many of us with disabilities can enjoy in the United States, and perhaps around the world. Photos may be added to this posting from my collection or the web, as noted.
Some of the organizations and programs mentioned here may have changed or no longer exist in New York State as of this writing. I hope you find this column helpful and informative.
It's been fun watching the kids grow up. As a first-time father, the last two years have been especially enjoyable because I've watched my son, James RIchard (J.R.), grow out of infancy since he was born in September 1989.
Yes, I know, we're approaching the "terrible twos." And yes, I'm not prepared for it. Nonetheless, kids do grow fast, and you never know what they're going to say or do next.
J.R. is talking now. On a recent trip to McDonald's, my wife pulled up to the drive-thru window and asked J.R. what he wanted for lunch. He looked at his mom rather thoughtfully, and then slowly he said French fries… Coke… Cheeseburger."
My wife looked at him proudly but quizzically because he was still thinking. "Anything else?," she asked.
"Toothbrush," responded J.R., with a big grin on his face. My wife just burst out laughing. You never know what a child will say next.
Nice to have a "big" sister
My daughter, Danielle, is now eight. She too has grown up fast. She's become another mother to J.R., always after him to do things right and protecting him whenever she believes he may hurt himself.
Danielle has also learned to use her bedroom as a sanctuary. We had to put a lock on her bedroom door because J.R. would try to get his hands on everything that wasn't bolted down. Barbie dolls experience terrible fates, once in the hands of my son.
One of the nice things about having two kids is that they can share toys. We're fortunate to have Danielle because not only is she pretty good about sharing, she also likes to play with cars and trucks. So when J.R. got older, we didn't have to buy a great deal of "boys" toys because Danielle had an automobile fleet of her own. Now we have two children that alternate from playing with Barbie Dolls to Tonka trucks.
We recently took the kids to Sesame Place, a children's amusement park in Langhorn, Pennsylvania. One of the things that struck my wife and I when we arrived at the park was its cleanliness.
We immediately noticed children walking barefoot, not worried about broken glass or other debris. Park attendants appeared in minutes to sweep up scraps of paper or anything else that fell from the hands of of visitors, children or adults.
|Big Bird, web photo|
As a parent of two young children, I now pay more attention to things like cleanliness, safety and nutrition. We liked Sesame Place because most of the people were civil, the park was clean and the water rides and other entertainment appeared to be safe and wholesome. "Big Bird" must be proud.
|Ernie, web photo|
While J.R. kept his Mom busy, I followed Danielle as she rode on an inner tube around Big Bird's Rambling River, a 1,000-foot gentle water ride. Danielle laughed as I followed her in my wheelchair, almost running into people who were also watching their kids float around the winding pool.
Not all fun and games
There have been serious times with the kids as well. While in the backyard recently, trying to help J.R. move his toy car off the grass and onto the patio, my wheelchair tipped over backwards and I fell.
My wife was in the house, so she couldn't see that I had fallen. I called to J.R. and asked him to get Mommy. He looked at me, and then ran into the house crying, "Mommy, daddy fall, daddy fall."
My wife came out and eventually got me up with the help of our neighbor. I wasn't hurt, just a bit shaken.
I looked at J.R. proudly, because although not yet two, he had helped me. He knew I was in trouble and expressed that information to his mother correctly.
Since that fall, J.R. has taken guests to the spot where I tipped over and explains, "My daddy fall here." He also asks me on occasion, if I'm all right. I know the memory of that incident still troubles him.
Yes, the kids are growing up. And, I've learned that I'm growing up too.
Postscript: Danielle is now an attorney, married and a proud mother of two beautiful girls. J.R., also known as James, lives and works in Washington, D.C.