As parents, nothing hurts more than to see our children excluded. For Kara, that pain was intensified when she realized that her toddler had been excluded from a birthday party because both Kara and her husband are wheelchair users.
Kara and her husband had signed up their then two-year old toddler Hannah for a gymnastics class. “The class required parent participation and with the bouncy floor and various obstacles, we knew it wouldn’t be easy,” shares Kara. But Kara and her husband figured out ways to be involved in the class. Each week they attended class, and each week they interacted more and more with the other kids and parents. And relationships began to form.
During the end of one particular class, one of Hannah’s friends began to hand out envelopes to the children as they sat in a line to close out the class. “She buzzed back and forth from her mom to each child in line,” reflects Kara. “The little girl’s mom began to help with the process. She quickly handed an envelope to each of the children seated on either side of Hannah and then moved down the row.”
The shock of exclusion
Hannah had not received an envelope. Kara admits that she had no idea what was in the envelope at the time. “I approached the mom-who had been very friendly with us throughout the class-and let her know that Hannah hadn’t received one. I remember asking if Hannah needed one as well,” shares Kara. The next few moments were filled with awkward tension and stuttering. As the mom stammered her answer to Kara, Kara noticed that the other kids were excitedly opening invitations to a birthday party.
“Eventually, the woman explained that she hadn’t invited Hannah because their house wasn’t accessible and she didn’t know how we would get in to accompany her to the party.”
Kara told the woman that everything was fine; Kara knew she would have to see this woman week after week, and didn’t want to make this awkward situation drag out. But inside, Kara was anything but fine.
“It was eye-opening that an adult would think it completely justified to exclude a child based on their parents’ disabilities-and do so in such an explicit manner."
Three years after this incident, Kara can now look back with some perspective. Kara and her husband continue to participate fully in their children’s activities. They have learned to deal with a variety of different situations and acceptance levels. “We’ve learned to speak up more in early phases of relationships and not to worry as much when some connections just don’t work out.” Kara understands that she and her husband won’t be able to control the situations that are potentially painful for their children. Instead, they push forward as a family, determined not to miss out on everything this world has to offer.
Are you a parent on wheels who’s had an experience similar to Kara’s? How did you react? What did you learn from the situation? Share your story with us, and you might be featured on AbleThrive!