Family Fun

Family activity is a priority.  It sounds so simple: one little family having experiences together. We are after all, just a family of four.

Not so simple for us.  Our lives have been structured around Riley’s needs for over eleven years now, day and night.  Just getting out the door is quite a production.  We rise through the night to adjust Riley and oftentimes spend the night with him in one of our arms.  The day begins with Riley’s medicines and breakfast, then on to dressing him… you get the idea.  Somehow between all that the rest of life’s details must be addressed while raising a typical child.  Through all this, John and I have decided we need to have a full life for all of us while still caring for Riley to the very best of our ability.  It does not leave much energy, time or resources.

We may not get out as much as we like as a family; but, we definitely try to enjoy life together.  John gets us out rollerblading, swimming… beach days.  Riley may eat first, but we are all at the table together.  On weekend mornings we rally to produce big breakfasts and afterward roll Riley out the door to enjoy the morning on wheels observing the local wildlife and pushing our rollerblade or biking skills. Ronan took two big trips in the past year to his extended family visiting Chicago, Michigan and Indiana and earlier playing nonstop in the New Hampshire snow.  I mention all this because at the beginning of the year as a Bear Scout the group gathered together to learn more about each of them as individuals.  Queried on his favorite family activities and places to go, Ronan could not come up with a single family activity or location that he enjoyed with us all together.  He liked going the bowling alley – with his friend.  No mention of any activities together as a family ever occurred to him. Dad took his answers hard.

Well, Ronan is only eight.  He will remember.  How can he not?  No family takes more photographs than this family.

But then of course, who could blame him for not thinking of activity as a family engagement.  Riley is always separated simply by the surroundings of a cumbersome wheelchair and lack of engagement skills.  He cannot be everywhere we go.

Last weekend one of the dad’s we know organized a bike trip.  This dad was amazingly inclusive sending out emails with details to every family he had in his address book asking them each to meet up as a family on a long bike route to the beach for play, lunch and ice cream.  It is a great idea! Whole families did show up.  Our family… well, this is not an event for Riley.  I biked alone to the meeting site to get some exercise, meeting up with John and the boys in the van.  John and I exchanged Riley and the van for a bike.  Riley and I drove off as moms’, dads’ and kids all organized into one huge bicycle group.  No, I guess family fun doesn’t come quite so regularly for us.  It poked a little at me.  Participating as a family as all the others who turned up could do was not an option. I rode alone, Riley had no interaction and we waited at home for the return of the rest of our family.  Yet, it would have felt like far more than a poke should this family not have been asked.  I sincerely appreciate our inclusive friend and my husband for being willing to take on these activities so that our youngest can have these experiences.

Should you be wondering… the bicycle adventure really was pretty great for all the kids.  Yes, some young families with training wheels fell behind.  A few mom’s did tire.  But they all turned up and gave it their best.  They must have been quite a sight travelling west on the Bonita Beach Road sidewalk.  Ronan told me traffic slowed for them to honk and wave.  A motorcyclist made sure to wave to every child encouraging them on.

Family fun and togetherness… we try and I sincerely hope it becomes easier.  It is not the big days my father organized when I was a child, they are smaller scale but I hope just as memorable in the end.  Just as memorable, even if they did not happen to be reported in a boy scout meeting.

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3 Responses to Family Fun

  1. Dina Montgomery says:

    Loved this post!! I am the mother of a 13 year old special needs child (also in a wheelchair) and 2 other children. Most of our outings have to suit the needs of my daughter, this can be a challenge most of the time. My husband and I always have to split up … One of us usually has to stay home with our daughter while the other enjoys time out with our other children. It can be sad for all of us if I think about it too much 🙁 but, I am hoping my children will grow up appreciating all we tried to do for them to make their lives as “typical ” as possible 🙂

    • Bonita Mom says:

      Thank you Dina – your day does mirror ours:-) I know our children each appreciate this effort from us to be somewhat normal. I’ll be thinking of you too next time we are doing the trade off…

  2. Oh my sweet friend… You are doing a fabulous job of arranging family time … yes it may look different and feel different to Ronan … but in time he will see how much you all did as family. And that will make him a much better person in the world. One who will know TRUE LOVE … a love that only a parent can have for their children. Many blessings to you and your family … and an extra hug to Riley … xo C. (HHL)

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