Real Stories from a Disabled Mom: Peanut Butter Standoff | Kieran O'Brien

Posted by Kieran O'Brien Kern in Life After Paralysis on July 25, 2019 # Caregiving

We were locked in a battle of wills. Her eyes, identical to mine betrayed the infectious giggle that was building in her chest. I gritted my teeth to suppress my own giggle. My toddler’s objective: To break my defensive line, reach her toddler-sized chair located on my screen porch and inadvertently cover my kitchen in the peanut butter coating her hands in the process.

The 5’2 spastic quad CP body I call my own held a CrossFit-quality squat in front of my youngest daughter, and my arms swiped back and forth with a sensitive baby wipe clutched in each hand. Her tiny chubby legs were taking big steps while my feet shuffled back and forth. She feigned right and I left. Where I had size and strategy, my mini-me had speed and endurance. With my phone case clenched between my teeth, I attempted to distract her from her goal with a video of a furry red monster singing about his crayon and goldfish.

It hit me, this standoff would go on until my legs decided to spasm from overuse and I fell over, or she gave up. The former would be inconvenient and injurious at best. The latter, not bloody likely as my angel not only shares my face, but also my sheer force of will. I would have to employ my best if not always first tactic: diplomacy. I slowly eased myself onto the chair that was behind me.

My balance is a work in progress. Whether picking up my kids or squatting down to talk to them, I am near chair, table, wall, or otherwise solid object so my body can relax, maintain stability, and tap into beast mode to lift a 30 or 50-pound child. I call this my insurance.

Removing the phone from my mouth, I trade Elmo for Baby Shark with a swipe and deposit it on the kitchen table. The song has been out of our musical rotation. Her foot taps the beat, and she starts to dance. Peanut butter clad hands rise in the air; the standoff has ended.

Bending at the waist, I lift her onto my lap, receiving a Jif facial in the process. After some silly kisses and an amazing hug, I plant my feet, stand with her, pivot and lower her to the changing pad that lives on my kitchen table during the day. Baby wipes make quick work of her hands and face with wipes. A bath will wait till after nap time. But the diaper that smells less cotton soft and more public restroom won’t.

I’ve used the same diaper changing routine since was born. She knows the phrase “Alley Oop” means it’s time to raise her feet up in the air (and wave them like she just don’t care). The offensive pants and wipes are dispatched to a Ziplock bag. Guiding her feet through the leg holes in her diapers, I pretend to eat her feet. Entertainment makes every process with a baby easier. We get her back onto those delicious feet and adjust her diaper and clothes.Our mission complete, we celebrate with an impromptu dance party with Elmo, Abby, and Jason Derulo.

A quick glance confirms that my chair is right in place. “Put your arms around Mommy.” She complies. As she’s grown, we’ve adapted how we move together for both of our comfort and safety. With an arm around her shoulders and one under her behind, I scoop her up and we slowly descend into the chair for a quick squeeze before her feet hit the floor for her next adventure.

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.