I know the differences between Maggie and other girls her age, but I ask people to ignore them and treat her like everybody else. It is the way we normalize the abnormal situation we deal with every day. I feel righteously indignant when people speak down to her or speak to me instead of to her; and I gently correct them and (hopefully) educate them a little bit. This week I was a little schooled myself. I have not been treating Maggie as a typical teenager at all.
There are some silver linings to our situation. Not just the obvious ones like deep meaningful glimpses into the meaning of life, but practical, every day things. We have to worry about lots of things, but not about many of the things other parents of teenage girls have to deal with. She is safe and protected from the dangers of drugs, teenage pregnancy, gangs and so many other things. She does not go out at night and make us worry about her choices. Her choices are limited by her circumstances, and, in some cases that inures to our benefit as worried parents.
Maggie’s lack of choices in certain things does not automatically to a lack of desire, however. We have to be careful to present choices that she can safely elect within the confines of her reality. She likes Hannah Montana and we need to remember to put it on and not subject her only to classic rock or NPR. We also have to remember that as a 14-year-old girl, Maggie might have some fashion tastes that are not always practical for her wheelchair or available on the sale rack.
Maggie’s cousin Nina is just a year younger than Maggie is and she is the perfect teenage girl. She is cool, pretty and wears the BEST stuff. She was here over Thanksgiving and spent Black Friday with her mom Clare in San Francisco’s Union Square, a shopping Mecca. It was ridiculously crowded. They did some Christmas shopping and Maggie was on the list. With Nina as the personal shopper, they decided to bring Maggie a little up in the world. She needed some boots that made a statement. They bought her a pair of Uggs.
This was a very extravagant gift for Maggie. To be honest I felt like it was too much. That is a lot of money to spend on shoes for anyone, especially on someone who does not even walk. I have never spent that much on a pair of shoes in my life (but I’m cheap). However, that decision was not mine to make. It was Maggie’s. She LOVED them. She wore them to school and all the other girls ooh’d and aaah’d. She has worn them every day this week and probably will for a long time to come.
Today there is a dance at school. Because of Maggie’s cool new shoes, several girls have decided to wear their boots to the dance. Maggie is one of the crowd. That is what a typical teenager wants. It is worth more than any pair of shoes. Thanks, Nina.