Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Push me harder

When I was a in my early teens, my parents tried a number of physical activities to integrate into my schedule. Twice a week I would go to the swimming pool in the area, every Monday I'd ride horses and every day after school I was biking. It seemed however that both of them had a different idea behind making me do all those things. My mom wanted me to primarily get the exercise. The movement, the accelerated heart rate, the routine. My dad was pushing me to do it as an activity I could be good at. Not so much for the health benefits, but beyond- because that's what other boys did. For months for example,  for months he tried to teach me to swim- and really pushed me hard. While my mom didn't really care if I only splashed around in the pool with my floaters on, my dad had the whole hour planned out for me with laps in different styles. He's the reason I fear water today. What can be a very pleasant experience for a child with Cerebral Palsy, because you feel much lighter and can walk in the water without your body weight and spasicity dragging you down for me was a nightmare. Every time it was time for me to go to the pool with me I watched the clock hoping he'd be late. It didn't need to turn into such traumatic experience, but it did and I loathed it and I feared it all week long. He'd drag me out out to the deep water and make swim towards the shallow end. As he was walking away from me knowing I can't reach the bottom with my feet would often cause me to panic. I was never able to simply relax and have the training take over. That state of fear made me do a lot of exhausting tense, rapid moves until I was in the safer area. Being in the deep end felt like my body was frozen with terror. I guess it all started when my dad tried to teach me to swim on my back a long time before. I think I didn't let the water carry me by assuming a flat and straight position and for a few seconds I went under. My father decided nothing bad was happening and I had to figure it out on my own so he did nothing. I still know the technique for some of the styles, but every time I'm in a pool I'm afraid I'll drawn. I guess some experiences you don't easily get over. Was it as necessary to push me as hard as he did? Probably not. But my father taught every other kid in my family how to swim and I guess it was hard for him to accept that I was different. All my classmates were swimming- I guess for him it was natural to teach me something "all the boys my age" did. Just like when he tried to get me to learn to play poker. Another activity I don't care for. Or when we sat down a few times to have me figure out chess moves when I was eight.

When I was twelve, I started hippotherapy. My instructors quickly figured out that I'm a natural with horses and I could be doing so much more than just exercises. So, our weekly trips to the forest begun, and then they wanted me to guide the horse on my own. That part was fun, but I never enjoyed galloping- there was something about the animal having all four legs in the air at once that made me feel like I was falling down. I'm not quite sure how that experience ended, but I miss horseback riding. Not because I dreamt of being a great rider, but I enjoyed the rhythmic  moves and the warmth of the horse against the cool breeze of the woods in Autumn. I've had a bicycle with  two  big wheels in the back instead of one for balance and straps to tie my feet to pedals. Mostly it set in one place with the wheels lifted so I can bike in the living room for exercise. My dad liked to take me outside on it to trek around the neighborhood. I can't say if I liked it exactly. I still say a bike sit is designed by a sadist and not with males in mind. But I liked biking around with my classmates who we'd call up to join us. With teasing and laughs the goal was to get some bubble gum from my aunt's convenience  store. As Andrew Sutton made me think about what the "normal" is with regard to disability,and how others now look at their experiences in Europe and say that growing up they were made feel like their condition was a problem needed fixing, I can't stop thinking about my parents motivations for pushing me hard as well. To do things that "other kids do". Isn't that another way of saying that they wanted to make me "normal" whatever "normal" is?

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