“Good Job. Now, do it again.” My dad said as he stood in the shade of the garage. It was Summer in Nebraska and I was standing (literally) behind his SUV, having just finished wrestling my wheelchair into the back. I was hot, sweaty, and pissed and my Dad was asking me to take the chair out of the car and do it all over again.
As I grabbed the chair and attempted to hoist it into the vehicle, my knee decided it’d had enough of my shenanigans and gave out from underneath me. I tumbled to the concrete and my chair soon followed suit, landing sideways a couple of feet from me.
I gave my dad an exasperated look. “Now what?”
“What would you do if I wasn’t here?”
I’ll never forget that question. My dad wasn’t supervising me learning how to get in and out of the car to make sure I did it a certain way; he was there to make sure I got it done.
My parents figured out a long time ago that, when it comes to most of the basic tasks in life (like getting in and out of a car by myself), there’s not much they can do to help. Their way of doing things would never be my way of doing things. The best they could hope for was to tell me what needed to be done and then make sure I took them time to figure out how to do it. “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” has functioned as motivation and permission to do whatever it takes to be independent. It doesn’t matter that you throw your wheelchair in the back of your car one handed while screaming. The important part is that you get in the damn car on your own.