Thursday, November 10, 2011

outside looking in

Our weather has been so nice lately.  It is incredible to me that the kids were playing outside in shorts and t-shirts this week.  Since it has been so nice out, we have been taking a lot of walks recently. 

The other day, John rode his bike and Luke took his scooter on our walk.  It is such an everyday occurrence that Luke is dressed as Spiderman that I often forget that it may be surprising to others.  We got stopped by a lot of our neighbors on this walk.  Which was nice, since it had been a while since I had seen some of them.

 Mark worked this past weekend and so I took the kids to a new-ish park by our house.  We have driven by it for a few weeks but never stopped to play.  Luke went there with his friend Brandon and really enjoyed it, so we decided to go.  The playground is really fun.  It is designed to look like an old barn.  There are hay bale stairs on one side and mushroom stairs on the other.  The other sides have rope ladders, rock walls or other climby things to use to get into the barn.  There are a few slides which are fun and lots of ramps on the upper levels.  There is tire swing set off to the side and a few benches for parents to sit on.   Overall, the boys loved the park.

The only problem was, there was nothing for Grace to play with or on.  She can only use regular stairs at this point.   So the super cool hay bales were out, as where the mushrooms spaced too far apart for her to navigate.  I was physically unable to carry her inside because there was no regular stairs or entrance into the 'barn' and therefore she couldn't use the slides, which she loves.  She also needs a regular swing, but there wasn't one.  The tire swing was okay and I did put her on it.  But I was so concerned she would fall off that she didn't get to do that too long.  And sister loves to swing.

The boys loved the playground.  The had so much fun.  In fact, Grace had fun too.  But then again, Grace always has fun.  She walked around the barn chasing her brothers and the other kids.  We call her life's bystander, since so much of life is beyond her reach.  She is content to just observe and enjoys watching other kids play. 

Me.  I did not have fun.  This playground made me angry.  This playground made me sad.  This playground set my daughter apart, it made her play outside of the area where all the other kids were playing.  I am by no means an activist.  I do not think that we are owed anything because my daughter has disabilities.  I try very hard to fit our 'special' family into the normal/typical world.  But as I watched my special needs child walk around the structure instead of in or on it, I was angry.  In this day and age of disabilities and special needs, did no one think of a ramp?  Or a regular set of steps into the playground?  Was no thought given to the fact that some kids need a regular swing?  And not just children with disabilities, this playground excludes all kids who are not great climbers (I would say anyone under 2 or 2 1/2).

It is true, I chose to go there and can choose to not go there again.  No one is forcing me to use this playground.  But, I have other children than just Grace.  My boys really liked this playground.  We like to go to playgrounds as a family.  As we left, the boys said 'I can't wait to come back here and play'.  I was very sad to tell them that we may not come back because there was nothing for Grace to do.  They were surprised to hear me say that, but they were so busy playing with each other they did not notice Grace was just walking around instead of playing on the playground.

At this point, I'm not sure what to do with my feelings.  It has taken me almost a week to write this post.  I am in many ways still processing the long term implications of my feelings.  I have decided that I am going to contact the township and find out if they are planning on adding anything to this playground or if the 'barn' structure is it.  What I will do from there, I do not know.  I am still saddened by my visit to this playground and sad for my daughter.  Even though Grace did not know she was being excluded, I know it.  And my job is to fight for her since she can't fight for herself.


nora said...

I think you get to be angry and sad on a number of levels. I think its how your process, but I think as a parent, you are right, we fight for our kiddos when they can't fight for themselves.

I have sat in 3 or 4 meetings lately advocating for children, not my own, who didn't have parents to advocate for them. After the meetings I always felt like the team of teachers liked teaching them more, were better teachers, we wanted to do more, be more and servie more students better. Being advocate takes a lot out of you - I can only imagine how hard it must be to be an advocate every day for Grace. Go momma go!

noreen said...

It was probably just an oversight on the township and you're the right person to inform them of it. It shouldn't be a problem to add a step or a different swing.

You go girl!

Steph said...

I think you are right, Anne. You have a right to be angry - and like you said, in this day, it is given that we need to accommodate all kids at places like playgrounds. I think I know which playground you speak of. And once you contact the township, please post an update. I'm interested in what you say. Because although I do not have a child with disabilities - I have young kids - and the park sounds like they won't accommodate them? ALSO - a great park with equipment for all ages and abilities is East Goshen Park in WC. I know it's a drive - we used to live near it before we moved to KSQ. But I LOVE It. When Lucy was little, it so great for her to be able to bound around on the equipment because she COULD. It would be perfect for Grace - and there are other jungle gyms there great for the boys. It's one of my fave parks. If you happen to be in the WC area, I'd suggest you check it out! <3