How Does Your Son Cope

Chad and Tracy
Chad was only 10 months old at the time of the accident which, some would say, is a blessing in disguise. He does not remember me to be any different so he has nothing to compare me to.

To him, I am simply just “Mom” and he expects me to be just that. It’s probably been my saving grace all along.

When he started school, a psychologist recommended that I stay away so that he wouldn’t feel different to his classmates. I felt so hurt.

By then, I knew that my disability wasn’t going to miraculously disappear. I could choose to hang my head in shame and give up or lift my head high and look the world in the eye.

Over time I learnt that disabilities evoke fears and insecurities in those not challenged with them. Facing any type of disability is far too traumatic for most adults to comprehend.

Children, on the other hand, have the most remarkable natural tolerance and ability to accept differences. They are not are not born prejudiced. Sadly they learn to discriminate by mimicking the adults in their world.

Luckily I’m stubborn. I didn’t listen to the psychologist. It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.

I have always been very involved in Chad’s life so his schoolmates are used to seeing me around. Chad and his friends have grown up with me in their lives just like any other Mom.

When he was in the second grade, he changed schools. In the first week he told me that some of the kids were asking him questions about me. It broke my heart.

I asked him if he would like me to speak to the children.

He said: Yes please, Mom!

I made arrangements with the school and spoke to all the juniors one morning, explaining to them exactly what had happened to me and why I was in a wheelchair.

Then, I invited them to ask me questions, which they did. Many. I answered every single one, honestly.

I told them that if they saw me around the school, they were welcome to come and ask me anything, any time.

After that, if any of the kids asked Chad anything about me, his standard answer was: I don’t know, ask my Mom.

No child should ever have to face questions like: How does your Mom pee?

The most difficult thing that he probably has to deal with is questions about me.

Chad has never complained of kids being mean to him because of my disability.

Thankfully my son has a strong character with a keen sense of who he is which definitely helps.

He is presently at boarding school. When I do go to watch him play cricket or rugby, he happily introduces me to his new friends.

People often make unfounded assumptions that he has had a really hard life because of my physical circumstances. That has come to light many times over the years.

Just recently my dad overheard a conversation between one of Chad’s teammates and his father. Chad walked past the grandstand where they were all waiting for the first team game to begin.

Teammate: Dad that’s the guy I’ve been telling you about, Chad Todd.

Dad: He looks a bit small to be playing rugby.

(Chad is quite a bit shorter than most of his teammates yet still quite stocky.)

Teammate: Dad that guy is as strong as an ox. He grew up hard. His Mom is in a wheelchair and he had to push her everywhere.

When the story was relayed back to me, I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Chad has never had to push me anywhere. I’ve always had a power chair. Nobody pushes me anywhere.

The truth is that Chad grew up sitting on my lap, getting a free ride, probably the envy of every other child who was dragged off to the shops by their mothers and had to walk everywhere.

He has never been expected to take any responsibility for my care, in any way. Ever.  I’ve been particularly conscious of that, so much so that I seldom ask him to do anything for me.

If anything, he has probably grown up a little spoilt, having my personal care assistants constantly at his beck and call.

Life these days is not easy for many children. Some have to deal with parents who abuse drugs and alcohol or, even worse, abuse them physically and emotionally.

In South Africa, we are all too aware of the dire circumstances of many of our children as a result of crime, poverty and HIV AIDS. There are so many different scenarios worldwide of children living lives of misery and hell.

Chad has the love, care and support of both his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. What more could a kid want?

For him, for us, this is our normal.

He is almost 16, an age where most teenagers don’t want much to do with their parents. On Mother’s Day earlier this month he wrote the following as his status for all to see:

My mom might be different to most mothers, but those differences make her better than all the other mothers. Love you.

I think that says it all.

Chad Ross Todd I love you with all my heart and I am so proud to be your mom.

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About Tracy Todd

Although I need a wheelchair to get around, it is most certainly NOT what defines my essence as a woman. I am also a mother, teacher, wannabe writer and an inspirational speaker with a positive outlook on life.
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34 Responses to How Does Your Son Cope

  1. chad ross todd says:

    love you so much mom and thank you for all the fantastic opportunities ! best mom ever

  2. Maletatsi says:

    Chad, you make our moms proud of the way you treat your Mom. This is your testimony of how single families with a disabled parent are supposed to function. God will never send something on our way without giving us the strength and courage to see it through. This is your Testimonies of God’s Grace and goodness. Keep it up.
    Be Blessed Tracy & Chad.
    Kind Regards
    Annemarie

  3. I shed a few tears reading this! Proud of you! Hope I can be a father like you are a mother!

  4. Nicole Meyer says:

    My son Cameron has Cerebral Palsy and I just love what you said about kids and them not being prejaduce. He is in Grade RR at Penryn and he is just Cameron to all his friend. Not the boy who doesn’t walk, or the boy who is in the wheelchair or the walker. I know he is my son but I think he is a bleesing to those children. As adults I hope they won’t have the fear that most adults have as they will know there is nothing to fear because they have been exposed to something different. I was one of those people who were a bit scared but obviously Cameron has changed all that. I hope that one day Cameron is as inspiring to other people as you are.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you for your comment, Nicole. I really do appreciate it.
      For a long time after my accident, I didn’t want to associate myself with other people with disabilities. I kept thinking – I’m not like them. In fact, I didn’t even know another person in a wheelchair until I landed up in one. I thought wheelchairs were only for old people and definitely not part of our family. How naive, ignorant and stupid I was! I hang my head in shame when I think back to those days when I had such a narrow-minded mindset. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. Unless something affects your life, you tend to look the other way.
      I’m not surprised to hear that Cameron is accepted so easily by his classmates. His mere presence at the school will change the mindsets of all who come into contact with him for years to come.
      They say that there is no more powerful force than a mother’s instinct. I believe this to be true as that is exactly what carried me through the past 15 years.
      You can see the potential in Cameron. You believe in him. And that is all that matters. He will go far in life. He is already touching lives and inspiring.
      Stay strong.

  5. Alta smit says:

    I am so glad that the days of locking the disabled is almost gone. Almost: as there is still a mental barrier. Why do people insist to speak to me via a companion. They miss out as I am the witty one.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      I agree. You see a lot more disabled people out and about these days. Or is it just that I am noticing them now because I am also classified “disabled” by society?
      In some communities, especially rural ones, people with disabilities are still hidden and treated very badly.
      Sadly, people are judgemental and insecure and therefore will do everything in their power to avoid people like us. They are missing out – I agree.
      Stay strong. Carry on looking the world in the eye.

  6. Alta smit says:

    I still think you are a great author and that you will produce awesome fiction. Is there any literature describing children with disabilities going on space trips in super duper wheelchairs or wherever a journey may take them. I think there is a need for teenage woman to know that they still can be groomed and dress funky to look awesome the way you do. I could walk while I was still at school, but ye crooked legs were not considered sexy and needless to say it buggered myself esteem.

    • Tracy Todd says:

      I’ve never really tried writing fiction, Alta. I’m still struggling to write real life stuff. Often I know what I want to say but I don’t know how to word it correctly. I find that the more I write, the more I learn. I also wonder whether there are storybooks about children with disabilities. I think that they will be well received.

      I could walk, run and somersault at high school. I had lovely legs, strong and muscular, from all the athletics and gymnastics I did. The boys teased me endlessly. I became so self-conscious and constantly tried to cover them up. Sadly, I also had low self esteem then. If I could go back, I would walk on my hands! ;-)

  7. I’ve always said we adults ruin how perfect children are by indoctrinating them with our beliefs and feelings as opposed to facts.
    Beautifully written piece Tracy. It’s remarkable how you are always available for people to ask you questions to quite often I think just to satisfy a curiosity.
    Have a happy day. :-) Mandy xo

    • Tracy Todd says:

      Thank you, Mandy.

      I would rather answer people’s questions, over and over again, than risk them making ignorant assumptions about my life as a quadriplegic. I see it as my social responsibility and hopefully, in my own small way, I am able to make a difference to how people view people with disabilities in future.

    • Alta smit says:

      Well said

  8. Deidre Mangan says:

    Well, I for one miss you and Chad around the various sports venues we hung out at as ‘jock’ moms. Chad’s pride of his mama was always evident :) Any Penryn / Pretoria Boy’s High High parent who took a moment to notice would not miss the smiles and hugs from Chad, just for his mom! I miss taking photos of that boy to put on facebook for you to steal! He is such an animated young sportsman (a showman perhaps?) I’m soooo glad you didn’t listen to the psychologist – otherwise I might have missed meeting one of the finest people I know, and I would have missed out on some inspiring moments too! You are a mom he can be proud of and he is a son you can be of, and the pride and love is very evident :)

  9. MaanKind says:

    Really. I mean it.

  10. MaanKind says:

    Good for you Chad. But without you. Tracy, he wouldn’t have been like that!

  11. dougal says:

    4.30am is a little early to be a bit teary eyed I think but I wouldn’t miss reading one of your delighful posts. Sounds like PBH was a good choice for Chad….Good on you Mom.

  12. Anton Fourie says:

    Isn’t it true that awesome Moms have awesome kids?

  13. Rolf Wietlisbach-Kobayashi says:

    Lovely post, Tracy, and surely a son to be proud of!
    I felt so touched by his status update for Mother’s Day. It brought tears to my eyes.

  14. It’s so true that children adapt and accept as normal whatever situation they are born into. I’m so glad you have this vital relationship with Chad. (It wasn’t the theme of the piece, so you neglected to mention he’s rather good looking…)

  15. Bill Watson says:

    As usual you challenge me, teach me, and provide insight into a world much different than my own. For that I am truly grateful. Thank you Tracy Todd. Bill

  16. Jo Bernier says:

    Wow.. sure is dusty in my office today.. sniff sniff..lovely!! post.. j

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