I’ve been holding on to this one for weeks and haven’t shared it because I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, but it’s time. It's way past time. It’s going to make some people feel mad (or defensive) and that’s okay because this needs to be said.
Having children does not entitle you to a handicap parking spot.
Nope. Don’t argue with me here.
I know your hands are full. I know you’ve got more little ones than you have hands. I know it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I know other people are doing it. I know it’s just a preschool parking lot. I know it’s a small store and there aren’t many patrons. I know it’s only for a few minutes. I know. I know. I know.
AND I DON’T CARE.
If you or another person getting out of your vehicle do not possess a handicap tag or plate, you are not entitled to park in that blue spot. End of story.
I’ve been the exhausted mom with a toddler daughter by my side, an infant daughter on my hip, and a newborn niece in the baby carrier- and I parkd my vehicle in the parking lot with the masses because that’s where it belonged.
I’ve been the mom with two young, special needs children who parked far away and toughed it out because I didn’t want to need the handicap tag that was so medically necessary and legally obtained.
I’ve been the mom unloading two wheel chairs, carefully and awkwardly lifting two children out of the vehicle in a normal parking space because a minivan of laughing teenagers with no tag pulled into the only available handicap space.
I’ve been the mom who used the handicap tag and suffered the judging glares of bystanders who didn’t deem my situation handicapped enough when my disabled daughters had a day good enough to walk into a store instead of ride.
I’ve been the mom who was so grateful for an adequate place to park my vehicle and push my children safely into a store so that I could do my grocery shopping like everyone else.
I’ve listened as my dear friend expressed her frustrations over not having a safe place to park while dropping her child at school. I heard her as she shared how other parents thought it was no a big deal, but for her, a brain tumor surviving mother who relearned how to walk and needs that safe place to park her accessible vehicle and maneuver her body safely, IT IS A BIG DEAL.
I am now the mother to one healthy preschooler and I can’t help but cringe when I watch other parents cruise into the parking lot and help themselves to the row of handicap spaces closest to the building. And I see them. Honestly, I do. I see that they are in a hurry and they are tired and they have a sleeping baby and they are wrangling toddlers. I see it, but it is no excuse and it certainly doesn’t entitle them.
I will not be parking my vehicle in a handicap spot. Not if it’s raining. Not if it’s cold. Not if I’m in a hurry. Not if the other close spots are full and it means I’ll have to climb that hill and extra stairs. I will not park in a handicap space because I know what it’s like to need it and not have it because others have taken advantage. I will not park in a handicap spot because if a parent or grandparent or caregiver or other store patron or church goer or any other human needs that spot, they deserve to have access to it. It is not about making things easy. It is not a perk of disability. It is about making the world accessible and safe for everyone. Today my family is healthy and able, but if someday we find ourselves back in a position where something as simple as a handicap tag and parking space could make the world safer or more accessible, I hope that there’s a spot there for us.
If you need a handicap space, then please call your doctor and take that very simple form to the DMV where they will issue you a blue tag and make it official. But if you do not, I hope you will remember that no other situation, including children or weather or inconvenience, entitles you to that blue parking space. You don’t get to blindly judge who may or may not need that spot you’d like to use. Sometimes the people who need it look like two little girls in wheelchairs or a normal mom with a medical history that requires extra safety precautions, but sometimes you can’t tell and you don’t get to deem your convenience more important than the safety of others. There’s a system for that and it comes in the form of a license plate or blue tag that hangs from a mirror. Then end.
*(Image is of my daughters, Alex and Emma, in their wheelchairs in the summer of 2010 when our lives looked a lot different and the handicap tag was anything but taken for granted.)
For more stories on standing in the awkward middle of life, love, and parenting, follow Happy Like This by Mandy McCarty Harris.