Dear Son was in the middle of his g tube feeding and was getting bored. His feeding, typically takes two hours in the morning and almost three hours at lunch and dinner. He takes his feeding most of the time lying on his bed and in the afternoon, in his tent, which he loves. He was an hour into the feeding and began kicking the wall letting me know he was bored. At almost fifteen, and unable to sit, our options for passing the time are few. I decided to get him out of the house and proposed we go to the movies. Delighted, he stopped kicking the wall and I chose a movie, the Ant Bully. With nearly 100 degree heat, the movies would be an excellent choice to pass the time. The hard part, would be all of the lifts, lifting him into the wheelchair, then into the car, then into the wheelchair to get into the theater and then repeating that whole process again to come home. At nearly 140 pounds, it takes a lot of my energy. In addition, I make sure he has all his meds, has finished his feeding, change his diaper and packed some diapers in case he needed to be changed. Dear Son was so excited.
We get to the movie theatre and it’s wonderful. This theatre is great for wheelchairs. The first row on the main floor, in the center of the theatre, has a few seats and then some of the seats have been removed which leaves lots of space for a wheelchair. You can actually sit next to someone in a wheelchair as opposed to having them sit in a different row, which is frequently the case.
The Ant Bully begins. It’s a wonderful movie that centers around ten year old Lucas Nickle, who had recently moved to a new city with his family and he’s definitely not having any fun-he doesn’t have any friends, his big sister ignores him and his parents are occupied with their upcoming vacation in Mexico. Lucas, a nerd, quickly becomes the victim of the neighborhood bully Steve. Steve, constantly picks on Lucas, pulling him up by his underwear until the elastic breaks and he falls to the ground. Lucas, also known as Peanut, is frequently terrorized by Steve and soon begins his displacement of aggression by taking out his frustrations on the ant holes in his yard. He proceeds to stomp on them and squirting them with the garden hose.
Little does Lucas know but there is a whole world alive beneath the ground in his yard, and the ants view Lucas as a threat to their safety and begin fighting back. In the ant world, he is known as Lucas the Destroyer and Zoc, the Ant Wizard (voice of Nicholas Cage), creates a formula that shrinks Lucas to the size on an insect. Lucas awakens to find himself a prisoner of the ants. The tiny boy is then brought before the leader of the Ant Colony to answer for his crimes against the ant. Showing compassion, the Queen of the Colony (voice of Meryl Streep) sentences Lucas not to death, but to live among them and see how difficult their circumstances can be. Nurse Ant Hova (voice of Julia Roberts), is put in charge of looking after Lucas. Lucas fights this process and continues to do things his way, totally ignoring the “teamwork” of the ants. At one point, he is running away and can’t climb the wall. The ants tell him he can do it and when he can’t, they yell out “chain” and the ants form a chain and rescue Lucas once again. Working together, they are able to do things that any one ant can’t do on their own.
Throughout the movie, Lucas gets an eye opening perspective of how the other half lives and just in time to help the ants in an all out battle against the pest control man brought in to get rid of the bugs. Throughout the movie, Lucas then begins to see the world from the ant perspective. In one scene, we get to see an underground explosion in the ant world, which is huge, and then see the same explosion in the lawn above ground, from the human perspective, where it is nothing more than a little blip. When you are living in the ant world, the explosion is huge, almost overwhelming and yet when you aren’t in the ant world, you just can’t comprehend the magnitude of the explosion.
About a half hour into the movie, Dear Son begins to fuss. At first, I think it may be seizures, because his hands are shaking and I am unable to calm him down. I use the magnet on the vagus nerve stimulator and things seem to get better. A short while later, he begins to fuss a lot and I have difficultly in calming him down. Soon he settles back down and we continue to watch the movie. About an hour into the movie, I am holding his hand and realize that his shorts are wet and he needs to be changed. I suddenly realize that while I brought his diapers, I would be unable to change him. The restroom, while it does have a handicapped stall, does not have a bench or anyplace to change Dear Son. While I could lie pads down on the washroom floor and change him there, I have the problem of not being able to dead lift his 140 pound body off the floor and back into the wheelchair. Therefore, I can not change him here and we must now leave the movie and go home. There isn’t another alternative. He won’t sit still with a wet diaper and I can’t expect him to sit another thirty minutes without being changed. We leave the movie. I am frustrated. What was supposed to be a fun time out had to be cut short because there weren’t adequate facilities to change him.
Life isn’t fair sometimes. I wonder how many times this same scenario repeats itself around the country. I wonder how many disabled kids don’t get to go to the movies because there aren’t facilities to change them. I wonder how many mothers take their other kids and leave the disabled child at home because there aren’t places to change them. I wonder why in the year of 2006, that we don’t have restrooms for everyone to use.
If we put ourselves in Dear Son’s shoes, we couldn’t go very many places if we had to go out and never be allowed to use a restroom for the entire length of time we are out. Can you imagine going out for the evening to dinner and a movie and not being allowed to go to the washroom or not having facilities available to use? Can you imagine what it would be like to have to go home anytime you are out somewhere, because you have to go to the washroom? And why, why do we insist on making lives more difficult for special needs children and adults? We need to make their lives easier.
I have to wonder if this is really the absolute best we can do as a society for these children? Being disabled should not be a handicap to having some fun and having a life. We need to begin to make things easier for these children and those who take care of them. We need people to understand that we anyone can be disabled in a heartbeat. One small car accident and you can be disabled for life. We need people to understand that making things easier or putting in facilities that disabled people can use aren’t just for the disabled. These are things that “everyone” uses which is why it’s called “universal” design.
We need a family restroom at public places. As a mother, I need a washroom I can take Dear Son into to change him. I don’t feel comfortable taking him into a woman’s washroom, lying him on the floor in full view of all the teenage girls, young girls, and adult women, and changing him. I don’t feel that allows him any dignity, even if I can lift him.
I also don’t feel comfortable going into a men’s washroom and changing him on the men’s washroom floor. It would be humiliating for me and I can only imagine what Dear Son must feel like to go into a woman’s washroom.
If I had a family washroom large enough to get in a wheelchair and with a bench of some kind to lie him on, I could change him. I know that this washroom would be used by fathers who take their daughters in to be changed, mothers of kids in diapers, disabled children and the like.
Like the Ant Bully, it’s all about perspective. You never know what it’s like until you are shrunk down and forced to live in the world of the disabled.
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