Real-Life Stories of a Disabled Mom: Rules of Being Out with Mom

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on November 09, 2021 # Lifestyle

Kieran and her daughters.Halloween kicks off a time of celebrating, shopping, and traveling. However, with the ongoing pandemic, my safety concerns of my kids wandering into inaccessible spaces, as a wheelchair user, evokes a mixture of joy and anxiety. I strive to keep the magic of Halloween, but with a full calendar of crowded events, I need to prepare my children for what to expect.

Preparing to go out with my fiercely independent children is more than sanitizer, water bottles and a cadre of snacks, although truth be told, that's the framework for more great trips. Going out with me takes some mental preparation that I started with my children when they were three years old and came on my scooter. Before we even set foot and wheels out of the house, they learned the "Rules of Being Out with Mom," because going out with me is a privilege. Stay With Mom. Pay Attention to Mom. Want to Go? Ask Mom. When Mom Says Its Time to Go… It's Time To Go. While it's true that these concepts are simple to a toddler/preschooler, they are new and sometimes hard to remember, especially at festive events.

So regardless of the time of year, I repeat the rules of being out with mom with my kids to keep them active in their minds. They are more than one-liners starting, and I explain what each means and reaffirm that all of them are not to rein them in but to keep them safe. So let's break down the explanations.

Stay with Mom. With two kids who are attracted to the muddiest root-filled paths and inevitably go in opposite directions, this message is critical. Staying together makes sure that I know where they are, and they know where I am. This way, no one gets lost, and no one feels nervous. This also parlays into conversations about what to do if they get lost! 1. Find someone who looks like a mommy or a police officer. 2. Tell them my name and phone number. 3. Get them to call me, and I will come to you.

Pay Attention to Mom. There is so much to see, hear, smell, and touch when we're out in the world meeting people and having new experiences. It's wonderful to get excited and take part in the day's activities. Although anyone who has taken a child shopping knows when they get excited, something we don't need is coming home or trying to. Listening to mommy is key to knowing where we're going and what we're doing. This also leads to discussions about the different ways people communicate, such as American Sign Language or speech tablets. As a disabled parent, I try to widen their scope of inclusion.

Want to Go? Ask Mom. Whether at a Turkey Trot or a Holiday market, magical things are everywhere begging for children's attention. I don't want every word out of my mouth to be no, but they need to ask me if they can go somewhere so that I can go with them for my youngest, know where they're going, who they're going with, and how long for my oldest. As a caveat, if we are out in a busier place, I will linger near my older child without cramping her style. The purpose behind this is multifaceted. First, it reinforces respect for me. Second, it enables me to have an exit strategy if the crowd is too close, my kids act out, or there is a weather event. There are as many scenarios as there are days in the year. But the Rules of Being Out with Mom (or any parent for that matter) is a great way to build your confidence, and your child's in a successful day out.

I'm Kieran Bridget O'Brien Kern. Power is literally my middle name. When my husband and I became engaged, we agreed that parenthood was a two-person job. I am the primary caregiver to our children, but we all work as a team. From infancy onward, we have adapted and grown together. Every day there is a new challenge. Every new challenge is an opportunity to learn more about them and myself.

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.