I was feeling like a cooped up chicken today, so I braved it with both boys out into the world on my own. I tried to find a place that Noah would enjoy so I picked Sensory Park, the only "combined" park for both typical and special needs children in our City. Let's just start by saying the entire experience was disappointing. Noah loves to swing. It quite possibly is his favorite outdoor activity. Usually however, we have to place him on our laps, hold him with one hand and the swing with the other. A difficult feat for me, a bit easier for his dad. I had never been to Sensory Park so I really didn't know what to expect. I suppose I envisioned lots of fun and many things Noah could do. Not really the case. There is only one swing there with a reclined 5-point harness. And that swing has seen better days. There were no other things Noah could do at this park. The 5-point harness on the swing is overly stretched out, and shows signs of high abuse. Yet, somehow I thought I could make it work. I parked the double stroller close to the swing so I could supervise Luke, and swing Noah at the same time. I placed Noah in the swing, and attempted to buckle him in. The 5-point harness offered him no support so I attempted to angle him sideways and put his arm through one of the harness straps for some resemblance of support.
Suddenly out of nowhere the Red Sisters appear. Two overly precocious red head girls in pigtails. I am swarmed in seconds by these rambling obnoxious girls. One takes the break off the double stroller and makes an attempt to kidnap Luke while the other grabs the swing Noah is on and attempts to make him go faster and higher. I ask her to stop and she tells me "No. She'll do what she wants". Noah has a panicked look on his face, that says oh God, this little girl could kill me. I yank Noah out of the swing all the while hollering at Red number two who is trying to drive off with Luke as I shout don't touch the baby, he bites. Luke has no teeth, nor does he have the demeanor capable of biting anyone, yet it was all I could think of as a deterrent for a five year old terror. However her response was "cool" as she holds out her hand to see if Luke will play vampire. Where is the mom?, I keep asking myself. I turn to find anyone that looks like a parent. No one. What did mom do drop them off and run?
I had no other option than to pack up my crew and leave. The two intentionally block the bike path and refuse to move. It's like a stand-off. I should have rammed them with the double stroller, but instead my better judgment says throw it in reverse and go through the sand pit. Of course as soon as I hit the sand the double stroller is stranded. I look up to the sky and say "Why me?" I pick up the 27lb double stroller with both kids and their combined weight and carry it over the sand pit. No doubt my back will feel that tomorrow. The Red Sisters obviously annoyed that I found a way around them chase after me like piranhas desperate for a feed. Why won't they just go away? One shouts "the baby hasn't bit me yet", and the other reaches for a stick and throws it down in front of me intending for it to stop the double stroller like a police strip. Who are these girls and where did they come from? I tell myself God if this is a joke it isn't funny. I finally make it to the car and look back to see where the Red Sisters went. They are no where in sight. I sigh thinking I've reached safety, only to turn around to see one clinging to my bumper of my car. No way! I ask her to get her rear off my bumper so I can load my kids in my car. She gives me a dirty look and backs away. Defiant little things is an understatement. All I wanted was a little get away from the house and this was way more than I bargained for. A dog walks by on a leash and then off they go - saved by the walking Labrador Retriever.
I load the boys up and head for home. On the drive back I kept thinking maybe I expected too much out of the experience. Maybe there is no place that we will ever fit in or have opportunities for us like other families. But as I pulled into my driveway, I said to myself, my expectations are not too high. That park sucks. And anyone that thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. It is just like any other park. It doesn't have what Noah needs and he is entitled to the same fun as any other child. It needs better accommodations and at the very least a working 5-point harness, more than one swing and shade! Had the Red Sisters arrived before me, we never would have been "allowed" to get on that one existing swing. They are building another special needs park in the City neighboring us, however I'm not sure if it will be any better than Sensory Park. I wonder if they've even consulted with parents like us to see what activities our special needs children can engage in. I'm sure the response I would get is most children aren't severely physically affected as Noah, and they have to appeal to the "majority" which is slang for "it would cost us too much to accommodate your child." I think a real special needs park needs a swing capable of holding a wheelchair, ramps for wheelchair accessible play yards, shade and cabana for sensory issues, I'd also love to see a picnic area that accomodates special needs children and their families, and ditch the sand. How would someone like me even get to the playground with all the sand that is literally everywhere? It needs a rubber ground service everywhere. Sensory Park leaves out a huge amount of kids as it is far from wheelchair friendly.
I don't think we'll make an effort to go back. There wasn't anything there for us. Those "typical parks" are a dime a dozen. And I'd probably be looking over my shoulder the entire time wondering if the Red Sisters were going to strike again. I was clearly out numbered today.
Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.