Just goes to show you that no matter how much you plan, people see the dwarfism first. Don’t let it get into your head. Don’t let that doubt fill your head to make you believe you can’t. YOU CAN!
Planning my son’s birthday at the City pool, I think, “Awesome. He loves swimming and it’s still hot outside. A pool party would be perfect. So, I make my list, check it twice, send out invites, buy the cake, pack up the stuff and go. We get to the pool and my son is all excited. His friends start to arrive and the kids get in the pool. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Summertime is playing in my head while everyone is enjoying the perfect weather and everything is going as planned.
Suddenly, I’m approached by one of the lifeguards. The record scratches. They say that my son needs to be supervised by a parent because they don’t feel he’s safe in the water. I begin to question what he means by that like is he being rough, etc. No, it’s just that they don’t think he’s safe. We asked what he meant by that. He said they didn’t feel safe and that anyone 7 years and younger needs to be accompanied by an adult. I said he’s 8 years old. Surprised, he said, “Well, they don’t feel safe with him in the pool and he has to pass a swim test.” I said, “Well, then all of his friends are here and they’re 7 years old. Why don’t they have to?” We went back and forth discussing the policy and I said that he is completely water safe. The unspoken concern was that he had a disability that they were uncomfortable with. The lifeguard said, “Ok, then you want me to have everyone take a swim test?” I said yes. After all, you should not just pick out one child. Every child who is in the pool should abide by the City rules.
My son’s friends lined up at the pool to demonstrate their ability to swim. They obviously were shaken that some man would single out their friend who they feel is just as capable as them. But, they remained quiet and respectful to the lifeguard who said to one of them, “Hurry up, I’ve gotta get this done.” The lifeguard continued to be curt and disrespectful. Not all children can swim perfectly across the pool, but they did it. The parents were horrified at his comment to the children.
Of course, all this discussion psyched out my son because the lifeguard did not believe that he could swim. He didn’t do the swim test at all. And I realize he has to pass this test. I’m just saying some respect could’ve been bestowed to a child with a disability. Instead, he was picked on simply because he has dwarfism. He is the size of a 2 or 3 year old, but is only one level below making swim team at his swim school. I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that. In addition, no one should single out a child just because they don’t feel comfortable with his disablity. It is not fair and is considered discrimination.
We have been to the City pool before and witnessed dozens of children going into the pool without an adult, especially with a 1:1 adult to child ratio as the lifeguard mentioned was also the rule. Dozens of children did not have a wrist band indicating they passed the swim test. The one thing that is common is that they are all taller than my child and they did not have dwarfism.
At the end of what was supposed to be a joyous day, I had to tell my son that in this world, we people with disabilities need to prove people wrong. We can do anything we put our minds to. Not easy to resonate with an 8 year old who continues to be judged by his appearance. Prove them wrong, son. Prove them wrong.