Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Bendy Bus - A Magical Small Child Magnet

The BendyBus is a magical small child magnet - especially to little boys. They get this look in their eyes, a look that in decades to come will be all grown up and mean something entirely different, but for now is an innocent excitement, beautiful to witness. The cut off point seems to be around 12, when they become all 'cool' and aware, but any younger than that and you can watch them gazing fascinatedly at my mobility scooter, little hands unconsciously outstretched in their desire to touch and understand how it all works. Even the policeman who's feet I nearly ran over yesterday was far too amused by the scooter to be upset. Or demand to know if I had insurance.

Something about the BendyBus breaks down barriers and lets children approach and ask questions. How does it work, how fast will it go, why have you got it, can I have a go please? I always answer their questions, curiosity sated with the answer 'my legs don't work as well as yours' they move on to the far more important stuff about the scooter. Sometimes parents literally drag their children away, their embarrassment and shame palpable as they mutter about it being rude to stare and refuse to meet my eye. That always makes me sad as their children are seeing and accepting difference and disability as completely normal parts of life, and even a way of getting amazing toys they'd really rather like to have. Those kids would grow up into non judgemental adults if given the chance.

I met Max yesterday in the supermarket. A proper little cutie of five or six he was edging towards the scooter in that way kids do when they are enchanted by what they see and can't seem to help themselves get closer. Max didn't have a great deal of speech, he had words but his little sister still in a pushchair was putting together her words into sentences in a way that Max is yet to master. He knew what he liked though, and he LOVED my scooter, little hands reaching out to touch it through the distance as he shuffled closer and closer. 

Max's mum apologised for him bothering me, but when I offered to let him have a go on the scooter her eyes lit up too. I explained he'd have to sit on the seat with me, it's close contact, particularly for a stranger. Max was halfway on the scooter before his mum had said yes, so incredibly focused on the excitement he couldn't look at me. Actually, Max couldn't really look anyone in the eye but his little face shone with joy as he climbed on to the scooter. So did his mum's.

Off we went, Max as good as gold, hands under mine on the handle bars, completely transfixed by the scooter, the speed and the wonder of it all. We went round a few aisles then straight back to mum, who looked even happier than her boy. Max didn't say much, he got off the scooter obediently when told to by his mum but remained utterly transfixed and so, so happy looking.

Later I went to see BendyBabyNiece. She's another scooter fan, getting stopped by the police just seems to have added to the thrill. The hoist is a big draw for BBN. She's allowed to help push the buttons and watch the hoist take the scooter in and out of the car. She also knows exactly where the horn is and how to sneak her little hands under mine and fiddle with the speed dial. It's a big deal. Her only disappointment is that I won't get off the scooter and leave it to her to operate as she believes herself competent to do. Well, she is 2 now. That's all growned up.

These are children who are seeing disability as normal. As a different way of getting around, way more exciting than legs could ever be, of fun and interest and very, very easy to accept. Legs that don't work so well are more than compensated for by having a full sized toy 'car' and attitudes laid down in early childhood are carried through to adulthood.

Oh, and mobility scooters are fun. How could they not be. So disability is fun too. I hope they remember that bit most of all when they grow up.


Oya's Daughter said...

My son, like Max, is transfixed by anything with wheels, and when we had a trip to Centre Parks and I got a mobility scooter to get about, we had hours and hours of riding it around going "wheeeeeeee" in high, giggling voices, his and mine. I'm rather gutted to note if I got a scooter now I'd probably get busted for having my boy on my lap as it's one of my favourite memories - actually being mobile WITH my son as opposed to hobbling along in pain trying to keep up.

Mike N said...

You know you'll have 2 more wanting a ride in Aug/sep when we're back for a week :)

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Oya's Daughter: Sad isn't it, maybe we need to find someone to invent a mobility scooter considered to be safe for carrying a child as well?

MikeN: I'm counting on it ;) That's if we can tear them away from the power hoist of course..

mauvedeity said...

I had a similar experience with my own small child - he spotted a wheelchair user in a shopping mall, and announced loudly "Look, Dad! That lucky man gets to take his wheels everywhere with him!"

I managed to avoid dying with embarrassment, somehow. When I went to apologise, he was laughing as well. He said that it was OK, and that he'd never thought about it that way before.

(To be honest, I'm a little older than 12, and I still want a go as well!)

Emma said...

In a lift at a shopping centre, a little boy (about 3) in his pushchair turned to me in amazement that my (shopmobility) powerchair didn't need anyone to push it. He wanted one sooooo much, he was almost shaking with excitement.

I love the interaction with kids when I'm in a chair - and most of them "get it". One little girl turned to her mum and said (in one of those overloud whispers that kids specialise in) "that lady can't walk very far like Nanny which is why she's in a pushchair". She's entirely right.

Mary said...

Small kids are great. I think one of the things that helped me adjust most was the way that my best friend's Littlun - who is about three months older than my illness - was entirely unfazed by my mobility aids as they appeared. They seemed to go in the same mental category as computers and mobile phones. An interesting thing which he may play with as long as he sticks to certain rules. said...

Conversation with my 5-year-old nephew the other day:

Me: Why are you wearing trainers? (Walking upstairs)

Him: Because I can walk properly. You can't because your leg's broken.


monic said...

I see this all the time when I take my mum shopping in her scooter & its hysterical watching all the little ones thinking "why can't my pram be like that one, its goes itself. " I love watching their faces, your right the parents get embarrassed but the kidsonly want a shot or even better an upgrade to a self propelling scooter instead of the pram mum is pushing them in