Monday, 4 November 2013

The Understanding of a 5 Year Old

My god daughter is currently 5 years old and could teach people a thing or two.

Last week was half term and I was able to see her. She has from an early age understood that unlike other adults "Sarah" cannot get down on the floor to play, run around and chase her, or throw her into the air.

This has never been a problem. My daybed has been the scene of many happy hours of play, a big favourite being "the teddy bear game" which has evolved from 2 teddies simply saying hello to one another and having hugs (age 2), to them calling the builder to repair holes in the roof (age 3), to travelling to Egypt and avoiding crocodiles (age 4). Her imagination has certainly always been a joy to play with!

Last week she very randomly decided to pretend to be my hamster "Dash" who had escaped from his cage and wouldn't go back. I had to catch her. Obviously this presented a slight problem as I was lying flat on my back on the bed.

It turned out that in actual fact, it was no problem at all.
"You're chasing me and running really fast" she informed me breathlessly as she raced round the room.
"Oh ok" I said, reaching out with both arms,
"You'd better look out. I'm just behind you", I added.
With a squeal of delight she looked over her shoulder at me and doubled her speed, giggling.
"You missed me. I'm running REALLY fast", she told me.
"Oh no" I said, putting my arms down and pretending to get out of breath.
"We both have a rest and then start running again" she said.

And so it went on. Quite incredibly we had a chasing game, something I never thought possible!

In my god daughter's mind my disability is no big deal. It is accepted as a fact of life. She doesn't blame me for it, get upset with me about it or ask me to change. If it is in the way, then we both together find a way around it.

If only other people were so accepting and willing to compromise about disability in this way.


  1. This is lovely. When he was a bit younger, I've chased my nephew around just by moving slightly, as if I'm going to pounce - I'm sure there's medicinal properties in a child's incessant giggling.

    Also Ajax, the toy poodle, will edge nervously away from me as I'm walking slowly to the bathroom as if we're engaged in a chasing game, and I'm really going to run. He'll wind himself up so nervous that eventually, I'll take a step and he'll dash away, barking in terror, certain that I'm going to get him. I never have run of course - I've never knowingly sped up, but over time I've come to understand that's not the point.

    1. I've certainly played a type of pouncing game before where she would edge closer and closer until I finally reached out and touched her. Like Ajax she would wind herself up so much in anticipation that I only needed to twitch for her to dash away giggling. This was a great favourite for a long time.

  2. Your god daughter sounds delightful :) Children always see things differently and accept very easily. I find that children who have been around me have grown to be wonderful people who have lots of disabled friends due to the fact that they know that they are completely normal people with a big sense of fun.
    It's really nice to hear the giggling and see them running around, and actually believing that you are chasing them :)

    1. I've always loved the fact that we've found so many games to play despite the limitations imposed by my illness.
      This however was the first time that she simply happily imagined me doing something I can't actually do. I suppose it wasn't that big a leap. After all, in the course of our imaginary games we have gone flying, swimming and all sorts of other things.
      But what I found lovely is that rather than complain that I couldn't run, or go and find someone who could, she stuck with it and just used her imagination instead so that we could play the game together. And it was a complete success!

  3. When I was a child I couldn't walk or push a manual wheelchair because I broke my limbs so often that they just had no muscle strength.

    But what I could do was walk on my knees, or upright crawling if you will. I couldn't crawl on all fours because that had a history of breaking my collarbones. I got out of my wheelchair as soon as I got home from school and always crawled around the house. I crawled so much that the skin on my knees was so tough that I could crawl on concrete in shorts.

    I remember several times visiting my nan's house at the same time as my cousin S and her daughter J. J was at the crawling stage of development. We spent hours having crawling races up and down nan's hall. I bet that if I hadn't had impaired mobility that I never would have entertained a pre-toddler for hours because most primary school-aged kids just don't tend to spend that much time crawling.