​The Ping and Pong of a Raising a Newly Turned 13 Year Old

Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on January 31, 2023 # Lifestyle

Geoff and his sonGeoff’s parents have had a ping pong table in their basement for the twenty years since they retired to New Hampshire to live closer to their son after his spinal cord injury. However, up until this past fall, the ping pong table was simply a giant platform used to hold a variety of basement articles, including a collection of candles, current sewing projects, and classic toys from Geoff and his sister’s 1970s childhood, which our children loved to play with. But when our son realized this “collection” table was actually for ping pong, he begged his grandparents to clean it off so he and his sister could play.

Having played competitive tennis in high school as an able-bodied teenager, Geoff loves ping pong; but, it isn’t exactly a wheelchair-friendly adaptive sport. Geoff humors the children because, well, ping pong is still fun, even when your 11 and 13-year-old are kicking your butt. For those of you who follow this column, you may remember we told our children about two years ago how they were conceived through in vitro fertilization. Our eldest, in fact, now enjoys telling people very casually how he was “born of ice” as his embryonic state was frozen for an entire year before it was defrosted and implanted in my uterus. There may be some parents who don’t share those fun facts with their children, but since science is so very cool, I would encourage them to.

Recently at Christmas Eve services, I dropped another bombshell on the children when they met the retired acupuncturist whom I credit with also helping my successful pregnancies to “stick.” I tried to explain western medicine, meeting eastern medicine and what acupuncture does. Mind you; this was just a few minutes following church service while we waited for Grandma. Geoff chuckled and shook his head as the kids listened, partly in awe, partly in irritation, wondering why their mother told them these things.

Thirteen years ago this week, our son Carver was born, and to say he has kept us on our ping-pong toes since the beginning would be a vast understatement. Despite all of the challenges Geoff faced following his spinal cord injury in 1995, his biggest fear was whether or not he would be able to become a father. And that role as a parent continues to be one of the most difficult jobs either of us has ever tackled. Thirteen is no joke. He wants to believe he is all grown up and mature enough for an iPhone when he is neither. He doesn’t want me writing anymore and sharing the stories of his childhood because “those are personal, Mom.”

While he isn’t wrong, I try to explain to them both how sharing the trials and tribulations, the ping and pong of parenthood, sometimes helps others have hope that they too one day might feel strong enough to handle the mental fortitude and patience required to parent. It is fair to say that I know 13 won’t be the hardest, but as a high school teacher, I know that it may feel like the hardest year yet as we bounce back and forth from him, seeming like 13 one minute and 6 the next. Carver can beat every member of our family at ping pong in his grandparents’ basement, and we certainly aren’t letting him win. Why would we do that? One day, someone else will kick his butt, and I’d like to be present when it happens. We have support and help through their teachers and coaches at school, and I’ll know we will survive what comes next. And if we don’t, there is evidence published through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation that we tried our best.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 13 and 11 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.