It is a parent’s responsibility to take care of their child(ren); not the other way around. But what happens when circumstances warrant increased responsibility from a child toward the parent? This was the case with my family. I’m a single mom to a glorious daughter. My illness and subsequent disability occurred several years prior to her birth; she’s never seen me without medical equipment to aid in my daily life. At age two, she loved to either ride in my lap as we soared down ramps in my manual chair or push me around (which caused her to have more upper-body strength than most kids three times her age!). By age three, she was helping me keep up the house by picking things up off the floor so I wouldn’t trip (or roll over her toys!), bringing me the laundry baskets and more. She also helped me dress – she’d pick up my legs so I could put my socks and shoes on and she’d help take those items off at the end of the day. My little girl worked. She was more responsible than she should’ve been and my guilt as a mom was intense and seemingly incurable. I longed for her to be more carefree, more ‘childlike’ and less focused on how she could help me. It simply wasn’t her job. It was MY job to be caring for her!
When my doctor suggested a Service Dog, I was apprehensive due to my ignorance of their capabilities. Yet I began the application process at several different organizations, one of which was ECAD, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities. After advancing through the various application stages, ECAD invited me for an interview. When I met with Lu Picard and several of their trainers, I felt immense relief, understanding and compassion. I was accepted by ECAD and immediately pulled all of my other applications, knowing I’d found the right organization for me.
As my team-training dates neared, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to have my life change… and it wasn’t just my life that was about to change, it was my daughter’s as well. She turned six while I was with ECAD training with my new teammate, Journey, of the Inspiration Litter. It was difficult being separated from my daughter but I knew this was going to benefit both of us in ways that I wasn’t even able to imagine! And it has!!!
The transition from just the two of us to a family of three was hard – my little girl still wanted to help me and was jealous of Journey. I had to explain that she’d always be my favorite helper; that Journey could never replace her in any way; that she wasn’t responsible for me; that we’d had to use unhealthy relationship boundaries because of our situation but it was no longer necessary, so it was time for her to enjoy her childhood; that there are other ways she can help me now. For instance, she no longer has to help bring the laundry baskets to me but she helps fold the clothes and puts them away (something Journey cannot do). She also carries in more groceries now; we usually only leave one light-weight bag for him to carry. I let Journey and my daughter take turns pushing elevator buttons and ‘handicap access’ buttons for doors. She knows he has to do these things so he doesn’t forget the commands, but it doesn’t hurt to let her continue to help in this way at times, too. She’s no longer responsible for picking up the things I drop – she can continue to play since Journey can now get things for me. She no longer has to help me get dressed; Journey does this, again leaving more time for her to be a kid.
With your support, ECAD has not only blessed me with the gift of Journey but has significantly changed my daughter’s life as well. For that, there can never be a way to thank you and ECAD enough. You have gifted my child with a true, healthy, more carefree childhood. You have gifted me with the ability to let go of my guilt as a disabled mom. I now have a four-legged partner who can help with things my child should never have had to. I, myself, am more carefree since I don’t have to worry about needing my daughter as much. I’m a lot more independent and have a sense of dignity I didn’t even realize was diminishing slowly over time. Thank God for your belief in ECAD’s mission! Thank God for ECAD! Thank God for Journey! And thank God for my amazing family of three.
This Mother’s Day, a gift to ECAD can help change the lives of more disabled moms—and their children! It truly is a gift that will know no bounds. Independence. Freedom. …a happier, healthier childhood. Please visit www.ecad1.org/mothersday and give today in honor of the mothers in your life—you’ll being making in difference in the lives of more moms than you’ll ever know.
By Lyllyan Blare
Author of ModifiedMama.com