Being an Uncle in My Wheelchair

Inspired by Madonna’s wonderful post about becoming a grandmother, I’ve decided to share my experience with unclehood. While this role is not necessarily new to me, it carries a different weight when the nephew in question is from your immediate family. My sister is due in January of next year and I couldn’t be happier. Our family’s newest addition will undoubtedly bring joy and confusion to the expecting parents, as well as a measure of challenge for myself.

I am not a parent (yet), but the part that always worries me about becoming one is its physicality. My friends with young children and even my own parents serve as good examples of what may be in store for me, which makes me even more unsure of my abilities. Granted, I know that every child is different and my wife and community will be there to help, but I am constantly plagued by worst-case scenarios and what-ifs that leave room for doubt. To be clear, my trepidation is not in child rearing, but whether I can hold my child. I would imagine that assistive technology exists that can address my needs (at least in part), however the essence of my concern still stands, I worry constantly if I will be able to provide for my future child in that specific way.

As Madonna states, “there is no (quad) handbook” when it comes to parenting, it seems to be a situation where you learn as you go, which is common for most parenting situations, so my worries are tempered to an extent.  When my cousin’s son was about three years old, he said goodbye to me once by holding my legs instead of my arms. It is a memory that I continue to carry with me and I look forward to recounting the story when he gets older. Kids are smart (sometimes), and understand more than you think. Even though I have every intention of continuing my reign as the “video game uncle” for many nieces and nephews to come, finding adaptive ways to play is fun as well. Have you ever hooked a Nerf gun up to a wheelchair? It’s fun. The similar taste in cartoons also helps. The few parents I know with disabilities are in inter-abled relationships and assure me that their kids see them as mom or dad first before any sort of disability is attached. Things like additional help around the house and finding creative ways to solve problems is just part of the job.

For most people (myself included), being an uncle or an aunt without kids of their own is like an extremely watered-down version of the real deal, and I intend to be there as much as I can for my new nephew. I’m hoping to experience some proxy parenting that hopefully prepares me for the potential road ahead. My concerns about the physicality of parenting are very real and will likely stick with me even after I have become one. Yet, it won’t be just me raising my child, so I won’t be alone in this. We will find a way to make it work.

About Tim Shin: Tim lives in River Vale, NJ. He enjoys food, fashion, music and television. Click here to learn more about Tim.