Yesterday Robby experienced what has become a rite of childhood by attending his first birthday party for a classmate. He could not have been more excited to be invited which happened to be hosted at his favorite bounce spot. I spent the weekend leading up to the party answering the same question: "Is it time for the party yet?"
Sunday morning he woke up early, telling me that he was "ready to go to that party and start jumping." I explained that it wasn't time to leave yet, but he tried to convince me to go early with the promise of cake. While I will do just about anything for a good piece of cake, I wasn't about to go to a bounce house four hours before the slotted party time. I set the timer on the microwave to countdown the time before the party and tried to divert his attention to more constructive projects.
Finally the timer beeped, and it was time to go. Robby stepped into his cowboy boots, grabbed the gift and went running out the door. I noticed in the car that his boots were on the wrong feet, but I figured that he was going to be taking them off as soon as we got to Jump-N-Jimmy's so I didn't bother changing them.
Robby was beyond ecstatic to be at the party. However I felt self-conscious and insecure. The lobby was filled with the parents of Robby's classmates, and this was the first time that I was meeting many of them. I try to feign confidence but, in reality, I am not comfortable around large groups of people that I don't know.
Most of the parents seemed to know each other. While I introduced myself, the cliche seemed closed and my standing in close proximity began to feel awkward. I was content and happy sitting in the comfy chair, sipping on some coffee and just watching Robby run and laugh with his friends.
I tried to sit close enough to the other parents so that I still seemed approachable, yet I didn't want to intrude on their conversation. Finally, two moms came and sat next to me. I smiled and introduced myself as "Robby's Mom." I was hoping to break the ice and start a conversation.
Instantly the moms began to look uncomfortable. Finally, one responded, "So, you're the disabled mom in the class." My face immediately began to flush and my heart rate increased. I think I responded by saying something eloquent like, "Umm.. my name is Peggy." An awkward silence ensured, and my insecurities began to skyrocket. I finally feigned a phone call so that I could get up and leave.
I felt deflated and angry. I have worked so hard to portray myself as a competent and involved parent. I am active in his class and have met all of his classmates. Despite my efforts, I've concluded that some people only define me by my limb loss. In the least I will have to fight an uphill battle against the stigma associated with amputees. In my opinion, these moms are more handicapped by their own ignorance than I am by my amputation.
I spent the rest of the party in the bouncers with Robby and his friends. It turns out that this group of five year olds are more fun, and less judgmental, than their parents! (Incidentally, this one legged "disabled" Mommy was the only adult actually jumping and playing with the kids.)
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