One of the hardest things for me has been letting the quad be a dad. Technically, when he was injured, he was already a dad. The kid was almost 6 months old. And, although hard to admit, he was a natural parent. I carried her for 9 months but the two of them bonded very quickly. She adored him and, thankfully, still does. The first six months or so he was injured, my mom took over as the parent. She traveled with us to Atlanta and lived with us when we came back north. It took me another six months until I finally felt like a mom. My poor kid was almost a year and a half before I felt like I was starting to be a good mom and it took at least another year for the guilt to go away. During that time, the quad was focused on getting healthy and going back to work and didn’t have enough strength to focus on being a dad or a husband. So, I did what I needed to do and was both a mom and a dad until he could manage it. Slowly, he came around… I think by her first birthday, he was starting to feel better too but for months after, years really, he blamed his injury whenever she didn’t listen to him or ignored him or didn’t want to be with him. Instead of realizing that she was being a normal toddler, he blamed himself and his injury. It was hard. Hard on him. Hard on me. and hard on the kid.
Every parent team has a good guy and a bad guy or rather, the fun parent and the discipline parent. I was both for a very long time and the quad never, EVER disciplined. He didn’t feel like he could since, let’s face it, a toddler sometimes requires hands on parenting… She got into EVERYTHING and required redirection and sometimes being picked up and moved. So, I did it. I did it all. I changed her. I bathed her. I dressed her. I disciplined her. I made the decisions. I felt like a single parent for a very long time. Because of this, once the quad was ready to step up and be a dad again, I got in the way. Yes, I did. I would take over and essentially make the kid realize that since I didn’t listen to her dad, she didn’t have to either and I made it worse. Yes. I did. I did it a lot. It was one more thing that I refused to accept and kept doing over and over and over. For way too long…
I notice that I still do it but I stop myself now. The quad will even speak up for himself and tell me that “he’s got it” and I have to FORCE myself to listen to him. Most times, I turn and walk away. I think that by doing it, it has shown the kid that I listen to the quad so she has to listen to him too. And she does, more and more.
Now, I’m not sure if all kids are like this but when the quad and the kid are together, just the two of them, she listens to him. always. And he is wonderful with her. I am incredibly lucky since he is a wonderful father. He is patient with her in a way that I just never will be… although I wish! He is sweet and kind and playful. He is amazing with her. Throw me into the mix and she’s your typical 5 year old who doesn’t listen to anyone… and when she and I are together, well, it’s hit or miss if she’ll listen to me. She and I are the same person. It’s nuts. We push each other’s buttons and we do it well. I have no idea how the quad puts up with us!!!! We are lucky.
One way the quad and the kid have bonded is by doing things together that involve the quad’s chair. When she was a baby, I used to sit her in his lap while she drank her bottle. During rehab, she used to sleep on his chest while he was reclined back during a weight shift. He has a large power wheelchair and once the kid was old enough and strong enough, she used to stand on the back of his chair while he wheeled her around. We barely used her stroller since she could either stand on the back of his chair or sit in his lap. It was wonderful! She’s getting a bit too big at this point to stand on the back (too heavy really) but she can still sit in his lap and hopefully will for a bit longer.
In addition to being a stroller, the quad has also turned into a play toy. His new chair (we’re on his second since his first was a lemon), can stand up. Because of this, it has allowed him much more freedom and ability to move AND he has been able to give the kid her first hug from her dad. I cried like a baby and the look on her face was priceless and one I will never forget. Since then, they have discovered other things they can do together with his chair. Most involve me looking the other way….
Things they do:
1. She’ll tie a rope to the back of his chair and he’ll drag her either in her little car or on a skateboard (I have a video).
2. She’ll have him stand up and then jump from his chair to the couch (I have a video… it was scary but yes, I had to first take a video).
3. They take many, many walks together (like now… they are at the playground together and I have some quiet time).
4. She sits in his old wheelchair and they have wheelchair races either in the house or outside.
5. They will ram each other; she in her car and he in his wheelchair (I have a video of this one too).
6. She’ll lay on the wood floor and he’ll either push her or drag her.
7. She uses him as a step stool or ladder to get things up high.
8. She’ll crawl up into his lap and he’ll lay down and they will snuggle in front of the fire while watching cartoons.
The last one is my favorite to see. As a mom, it’s sometimes tough to see how close they are since yes, I get jealous, as I’m sure most moms do. But they are so wonderful together. During those moments, I take a step back and I let the two of them just be… And I now do my best to support him as a parent.
It occurs to her that yes, daddy is different but she revels in it. We have never made it an issue and the quad is always, ALWAYS willing to explain to her why and how it doesn’t make him different but instead special and that he’s still her dad. We’ve had some tough conversations with her but overall, she’s been completely accepting of his injury.
We are so incredibly lucky to have her in our lives and she is lucky to have him as her dad.