Jul 22, 2011

More Prejudices Confronted

Our goal for the Summer had been to go twice a month to Busch Gardens Tampa.  But alas, we're not doing too great on achieving it.

So on Thursday, we decided to brave the heat and go.  Little did I know that the heat would be the least intensive thing we'd encounter for the day.

For some background, we've been going to BG for 10 years and had very few issues up to this point.  None basically.  We have yearly passes and go every chance we get.

Each child has his/her own card.  It says their name on it (we all have the same last name).

When we got to the turnstiles yesterday to enter the park, I did like I always did ... hand each kid their card and help them walk through.   After the kids were all through, the lady took my card and said to me, "Do all these kids live with you?"  Now ... in my 12 years of being a parent of adopted transracial kids, I have gotten used to MANY questions and I can tell the difference in tone of a person who is curious, a person who is genuinely interested in our family and a person who is being intrusive/rude.  This person was being rude/intrusive.  I have no clue what she was trying to ask or why.

So the conversation went like this:
Her: Do all these kids live with you?
Me:  Yes, their my kids
Her:  But do they all LIVE with you?
Me:  Of course they do because they're all MY kids
Her:  They're not all yours.
Me:  Yes they are.  They are ALL MY kids.
(Meanwhile, she is holding me hostage basically as she is not letting me in the park ... the kids are already in.)
Her:  but ...
Me:    THIS IS MY FAMILY.  THESE ARE MY KIDS.  Have a nice day. 

The kids were standing there hearing this lady drill me with this tone and they immediately asked, "Why wouldn't she believe you?"  I HATE that part.  Now we have to have a conversation about intrusive people, adoption, transracial, etc etc just because this woman was ignorant and blatant about it.  Over the years I can ignore most of it, but sometimes it's just IN YOUR FACE.

I know this dialogue can't properly convey the nasty tone in which she said this ... because the words themselves are pretty innocuous.  I've had similar conversations (sans tone) that were quite pleasant.

And as I stood there, I was just trying to make the conversation END.  But truthfully, I probably mishandled it, I should have asked her, "Why do you ask?"  But I made the decision that it would only prolong this nonsense.

After we finally got in the park, we had an amazing time as usual.  Fun rides, good food, lots of drinks.

One funny thing was Manny.  He can ride very few rides but he likes the ones he can do.  The train is one he loves.  There is a baby train and one of the kids has to ride with him in case he falls over.  They have fun with him too.  He used to pitch a fit when the ride was over but he's figured out that we have to get him up, get back in line and then sit him back down.  So every time I'd pick him up he'd immediately start with saying, "Train sit, Mama."  His way of saying he wanted to ride again.

Eventually the motorcycles caught his eye (he LOVES vehicles of all types).  He is old enough and tall enough to ride but he doesn't have enough trunk/head strength to ride it but ... he doesn't understand that.  He just sees a cool ride and doesn't understand why we won't let him on.  Same with the airplanes.  Up until yesterday, he never even asked to ride them ... now he is smart enough and verbal enough to convey what he wants.  It was so very sad to have to tell him no.  He pitched the biggest fit he's ever pitched.

And truthfully, I was crying inside!  It's just not fair.  It's times like this that I feel so completely helpless.

I eventually distract him with new things and he's back to his happy self.  But it still haunts me.  I'm sickened to see a "regular" two year old run and play and jump and climb.  Manny used to not notice what he was missing.

But now he is starting to.
And it breaks my heart.

Towards the end of the day, the kids wanted to see this new show.  (They had "Bendy Chinese girls" as Zoe called them! LOL)  This theatre has 4 sets of stairs leading to the entrance so they have a side entrance for wheelchairs.  No strollers allowed.

Manny was in his kidcart wheelchair, all his equipment hanging from it.  He was on his tube feed and that was hanging on the cart.  The whole thing SCREAMS "disabled child".  We headed into the entrance and were met with this woman demanding we leave the stroller outside.  I told her it was a wheelchair (usually that's enough).  But this woman was insistent that it wasn't.

So now I have to stand there and "prove" he's handicapped?  Seriously?  How degrading.

After several rounds of "This is a wheel chair", "Prove it", I was fit to be tied.  I never lost my cool.  Never raised my voice.  But I was in shock that I would have to prove it.  She eventually decided that the parking decal from our van would suffice!  SERIOUSLY??  I'm supposed to walk to the van, peel of the label of the van and bring it in to her?"  I started to show her the tube connected to him and then realized it would be violating Manny to do more than that.

Eventually, I just walked around her and sat down.  The other lady at the door ushered us to the spot to sit and tried to be helpful.

As I collected myself, I looked down the row of other people on the handicap aisle and discovered they were all rental scooters.  NOT ONE PERSON there was in a permanent need of a wheelchair.  So it made Manny the most disabled person there by far.  And yet I have to stand there and argue with this door greeter about the need to occupy a handicap spot??

Truthfully, it would have been almost impossible for me to use the regular entrance.  I'd have had to carry him, carry his equipment, carry his tube feeding supplies.  (All very heavy) and then leave this very expensive wheelchair out in the park.  But that's what she wanted us to do.

At what point does he "deserve" this spot?

And yes, I can see it from her point of view as well.  I'm sure people take advantage of the system all the time.  I know of many people who work a system, trying to get round the rules, get away with something.  Those people make my life sooo much harder.  I know there is no way for her to know the difference between people like that and people like me.

So to me, it says the system is broken.  I'm not sure what I'll do about this but 2 incidents on the same day is enough to make me do SOMETHING.

Right before time to leave, there was one more outside show the kids wanted to see.  While we sat there, I saw a fellow special needs Mom.  She and I have chatted before and turns out she was working there part time.  We chatted.  She asked how our day was and I mentioned the wheelchair incident and she was more horrified than I was.

Moms of kids with special needs know how difficult this world is on a daily basis.  They understand that we're only one phone call from bad news.  One cough away from a hospital stay.  One bad day away from ... who knows what.  They know we have to fight for services, for rights, for IEPs, for understanding, for compassion DAILY.  They know that all we want it to make it through a day without having to fight for anything.  Without out worrying.

My point?  If you're a family with a child(ren) with special needs, I am your cheerleader!  If you need encouragement, let me know as I'm your girl.  If you know a family with special needs kids, do something special for them.  If you're out in public with someone a family with special needs kids, smile at them.

We are all just regular people trying to live a regular life with extraordinary kids.

I've also learned through this, that I have amazing friends with colorful vocabularies! Love you all for the  new choices of words.  


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ok We know what you are talking about. What about adults too.

  3. I can really tell that you are nicer than me! It seems you need to have card-carrying proof that you are the mother to multi-racial, disabled children! Perhaps there is someone in BG's customer service who could help you get something in your possession that you could show their "workers" that would instantly and quietly PROVE who you are, so that the children don't end up humiliated. They already have so much to deal with. I would also make sure to report the "unhelpful workers". If you didn't get their names, or badge numbers, I'd still go to try get them identified. They should know who worked where at what times. I am sure BG would not want a suit from the Americans with Disabilities association. I'd also get a security phone number to call in the event such a thing happened again. But as I began this note, you are nicer than me.

    Carolyn (in Las Vegas)
    Mother to a 15 year old daughter from China

  4. The truth is, no adult needs highly developed sensitivity skills to know how to treat anyone. "Sheetrock for Brains" describes the two BG employees involved here.

    You are one exceptional Momma, Beth, and as always, I love ya!


  5. I think if it was me, I would have made a visit to the customer service office before heading home.