Travel with a kid – and a wheelchair

I set out to have a perfect day trip with Moomin this spring, right after a stressful time at work. IN fact it was a couple of weeks where I would pick him up from the aftercare at school at the last possible minute, feed him dinner, and say “Sorry… I have to work some more now.” How dreary! In an attempt to make up for those weeks, I set out to have the perfect aquarium and beach day of his (and my) dreams.

You noticed the wheelchair? I get a bit prickly about it. No, I don’t want any help, thanks. No, I”m not “brave” or anything, just living my life. Well… in reality I do sometimes need help and I have to nerve myself to do things and go places. Going to Monterey is about a 2 hour drive. I’d have to park in a parking garage on a hill, get myself and Moomin down the hill, wheel through a huge aquarium that’s very crowded and stressful, manage to feed us, and do it all in reverse to get back home. Driving tends to hurt my knees and stiffen me up, though I love a road trip. Hills, even small hills, are hellish in a manual wheelchair. I would have to get Moomin to push me up any sort of hill! Crowds are difficult as well, as I get jostled painfully, stepped on, kicked, and have to stare at people’s butts a lot, all while keeping track of my dreamy-minded child. Sitting up all day with no time to lie down is very tiring and painful for me. I get cranky and snappy when I’m in pain; that’s no fun. Then, the beach. Would there be a beach I could manage to get onto on crutches without seriously hurting myself? Also… Moomin tends to get carsick. So I did wonder: is this going to work? Are we going to have a horrible time, will either of us be in tears, what if I can’t make it home; who would rescue us if I needed rescuing? Will I pay for this trip in pain and lost functioning, tonight, or for days afterwards? What if, because I tried to have this nice trip with my kid on the weekend, I mess myself up physically so much that I can’t make it to work and then I get fired?!

It’s all much easier than it might be, because Moomin is so good. He would never run off in a crowd, or at the beach, or suddenly go into the water and be pulled out to sea by a rip tide, or anything like that. I can trust him completely to behave.

So once I realize I’m a bit afraid to do something I have to do it!

We set out for Monterey, and listened to a great punk rock mix tape. We talked a lot about how songs have moods. Even when you can’t understand the words, a mood gets conveyed. Moomin labelled many songs “Fierce” or “Happy, but angry”. One was “Makes me think of an elephant on a trampoline.”

We got to Cannery Row. MIRACLE!!! I got a parking space right on the main street, across from a tiny, perfect beach!

cannery row

I sat in my wheelchair in a garden full of butterflies while Moomin ran around on the pocket-sized beach below, looking in tidepools and building sand castles and standing on the rocks looking out to sea. Here he is poised on top of a rock.


Then we had lunch in a restaurant called the Fish Hopper, just above the beach. They seated us right away without any fuss about my wheelchair, in a table outside right on the edge of the deck. I let Moomin run down onto the beach while we waited for our lunch.

fish hopper restaurant

In the aquarium, we spent a long time at the Kelp Forest. That way I didn’t have to move around a lot. I parked and watched Moomin squirrel around, reading all the signs and staring at the giant tank full of stuff.

kelp forest

Museums with Moomin are extra fun for me. I love to read the signs and think about everything I look at instead of racing through. He reads every single sign I have the patience to sit in front of, and he’ll read them out loud to me, with commentary and thoughts as we examine at whatever it is. When other people notice them, they freak out a little because Moomin looks younger than he is. I get very proud of how studious and scholarly he is. He doesn’t know how rare this quality is. Or, maybe, how much I appreciate the fact that we share it!


Strangers also notice the wheelchair (when they’re not rudely bumping into it.) So we get a few looks of sentiment, or pity, or concern, or just kind of “oh look, freak show.” I’m used to it and since I have purple hair it’s not like I’m really fighting it, right? Still, a whole day of stares is wearisome.

Of course I also appreciate silliness!!!

under a wave

And beauty…

moon jellies

And wise old sea turtles who might make a person think of their favorite stuffed animal.

sea turtle

Moomin took those last two photos and they’re really not bad!

We drove home, I took a painkiller, and I’d like to add that despite my not-unrealistic but still neurotic fears, Monday morning I was in my cube at work.

That one nice day can’t replace or fix the weeks I spent putting off Moomin and not even being able to help him with his homework because I was too tired or stressed. But, though it can’t make up for it, it at least provides some good memories to go along with the day to day humdrum.

All the way driving home I had this uplifting bubble of angry happiness, just like the punk rock mix tape. Take that, world! Maybe you thought I couldn’t do this… AND I DID. I was proud of myself and yes, I did feel Brave. And Moomin doesn’t know that I was afraid of our trip or that I struggle, which is as it should be.

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