Thursday, August 10, 2006

Realizations Part 2: Kid's Eye View

Another sleepless night means even more realizations.

The kids start school today. Thank all that is good and holy. But I can barely believe that my daughter is in second grade and my son is in Preschool 4.

I have vague recollections of attending a nursery school. Remember? That's what they called it back then. Nursery school. Because when I was a kid, you were still a baby when you were three and four-years-old. You weren't already competing in sports and signed-up for activities. You didn't have to start training when you were a toddler in order to get a leg up on the competition.

I haven't thought about nursery school in years.

I didn't start the school year with the rest of the kids. I don't know why. But I remember that my parents were tense when they brought me that first day. Not so much because they were afraid I would be shy or scared, but because they were afraid how the other kids would react to my handicap.

Oh, and remember when they called it that? Handicap. I played handicapped tennis and my mom parked in handicapped spots. No one had thought of calling it "disabled" yet.

I had Legg Calves Perthes Disease and wore a brace on my leg. I've written about it before.

The first thing my nursery school teacher did was sit us all in a circle and have me tell everyone about my brace. She let the kids ask me questions. It was the right way to handle it. I wasn't shy.

I haven't thought about nursery school in years. But last night I had all of these little snippets of memories flashing back.

I remember making these little turtles that raced along a string. You had to crawl along and pull something. I remember that each kid got to race theirs, but somehow they ran out of time before it was my turn.

I remember all the kids lying on long scrolls of paper and having the assistant teachers trace our bodies. That was so cool. Except, well, they ran out of time or paper before it was my turn.

I remember the kids all picking books and sitting in a teachers lap while she read to them. Except I was always sitting beside an assistant teacher while she read me Where the Wild Things Are.

And last night I suddenly realized something.

They were afraid of me.

Not the kids, but the adults.

They were afraid to have me crawl on the floor. What if I wasn't suppose to? They were afraid to trace around my brace. What if my picture looked different and I got upset? They were afraid to have me sit in their laps. What if they hurt me? Or I hurt them? Maybe they just didn't want to touch me.

To me it was nothing. It was normal. Just something to adapt around. To them, my brace was a big deal.

For all the times I remember being told I couldn't do something like run or jump or play, there were so many more times when I was just left out with some excuse.

I was lucky enough to receive excellent medical treatment and my parents made some (honestly) lucky decisions that enabled me to be out of the brace and normal by the time I entered first grade.

Suddenly, last night, I was wondering how my life would be different if I hadn't.

See, I have never really thought about it before because I was looking at it through a kid's eye view. And with all of the hundreds of kids I played and learned with, only one ever had a problem with my handicap. So it was easy for me.

It was no big deal. It didn't change or shape who I am today. Not really.

But, my god, it could have.

How come I am so lucky when so many other people have to suffer so much?

And how can an adult be afraid of a little kid? I wonder how much has changed in the last thirty years.

No comments: