When my daughter started kindergarten and I began volunteering in her class, I was quickly overwhelmed by the barrage of questions and stares from her classmates. I decided then and there I would enter each new school year with a one-time Q and A session. It has worked fairly well and even with a school change, the students in my children’s classes usually know me by name and greet me happily. Occasionally I am referred to as “the lady with no arms,” but I kindly tell them they can call me Mrs. Jones.
I find answering the kids’ questions all at once limits me as a distraction in class and lessons the stares and questions from students as I volunteer. As part of my presentation, I usually show the video production, Annae’s Journey, produced by the War Amps of Canada. It shows me doing my hair and make-up, working in the kitchen, grocery shopping, biking and driving using only my feet. Afterwards the kids have the opportunity to ask me their questions.
Many questions have obvious answers and I think, “well, did you see me do that in the video?” but I am not one to discourage a child’s question, so I answer anyway.
I get asked the same questions hundreds of times with the odd creative one and many children have funny and sweet comments, but nothing prepared me for what my own son, Tarek said to me this past September.
The class was watching me push a grocery cart in the video when 6-year-old Tarek leans over to me and whispers, accusingly, “You never push the cart anymore.”
Taken back a little I responded that yes, in fact, I still do when he or his sister aren’t with me. I imagined he was probably thinking, “All this time Elizabeth and I have pushed the cart for you and you can actually do it yourself?”
I suppose he is too young to remember me ever pushing the grocery cart as his older sister took over that duty years ago, but at the same time I felt like saying, “Do I really need to explain bruised ribs to you? Because that is what happens when I push the grocery cart! Believe me; I did this plenty of times during college.”
Instead, I gave him a little smile and hug. Anyone who knows my son knows he is capable of saying very funny, honest and thought provoking things. Although we constantly roll our eyes over him, we love him to death.
So in this moment of being caught red-handed, or more appropriately, “red-footed”, I think he realized that his mom is in fact, very independent. Perhaps we have gotten so used to the way we do things in our home that it never occurred to me to tell my children about the days I lived independently on my own.
Like any regular family, we all lean on each other and expect everyone to pitch in. I am certainly not chilling on the sideline sipping a soda while the rest of my family works.
I just didn’t realize my kids thought when I abstained from something, it meant I couldn’t do it, which is a far cry from the truth.
In the future, I need to be more mindful when I ask my children to help or when they see their dad do something for me, that it is being done out of love and in the spirit of helping. For the record, I am very independent, I can push the grocery cart or change the laundry or do up my seat belt but at the cost of time, ease and sometimes pain. And for goodness sakes, if pitching in takes the strain off my joints, saves my poor ribs and makes me a happier mom; I am all for that!