Article: She Just Sees Me as Dad
This article was written by Marco Pasqua, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Parenting with Disabilities (Spring 2023). Read the issue here.
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For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a dad. But I was born with Cerebral Palsy, so I wasn’t sure it would be possible.
I used to have a fear. I was afraid that, if I became a parent, my child wouldn’t respect me as much as other parents without a disability. I thought they wouldn’t see me as an authority figure because I use a wheelchair.
I remember sharing my fear about this years ago to one of my basketball teammates, Murray. He was a few years older than me, paraplegic and a father.
I’ll never forget the look on his face. He smiled at me and said “Well, that’s just silly.” I said, “What do you mean?”
He replied, “I might not run and my daughter might be a lot faster than me. But, one thing I can tell you is that, at the end of the day, she just sees me as Dad.”
He wheeled off and I didn’t think much else about it.
Flash forward to 2021. My wife and I are in the delivery room anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child. Everything is going smoothly until my wife starts to push. The machines she is attached to are making loud beeping noises, increasing in their intensity by the second. I hear the nurses whispering to each other. Something isn’t right. There are complications.
Every time my wife has contractions, the heart-rate of my child slows down. All of a sudden, those fears I expressed to Murray all those years ago came flooding back in me. Not just the fear of my child not respecting me, but fear that my wife and my child may not make it out of the delivery room. Or, is my child going to be born with a disability like her father?
Twenty months later, I’m happy to say that my daughter is very happy and healthy. Getting to know Stella, I can tell you that I finally understand what Murray meant.
When I’m lifting my daughter up in the air pretending she’s a plane or she’s climbing onto my lap because she wants a ride around the house, I know everything is okay.
In those moments, my daughter doesn’t see me as my disability, she just sees me as Dad.
A lot of our day-to-day routines have been made possible thanks to some adaptations we were able to make around the house. Stella’s bedroom features an accessible crib that allows me to be eye-to-eye with her when putting her to bed. We even have curtain robots that are voice-activated and enable me to close her curtains without getting out of my wheelchair.
These adaptations have been lifechanging and have allowed me to be there for her, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. She knows I do things a little differently, but none of that matters to her. I’m still the one that reads to her each night before she goes to bed, the one that makes her feel safe. Even if she isn’t quite ready to go to bed.
So, my message to potential parents with disabilities out there is: if you’re thinking about whether or not you can do this, you absolutely can. Don’t sweat the small things. Parenting is a journey and you’re on it together.
Know that you’ll adapt as you go. At the end of the day, your child is just going to see you as Mom or Dad.