My Interview with a Mom in a Wheelchair

Ariela Gordon-Shaag has been a loyal blog reader and commenter for years. She wrote a guest post on breastfeeding and working, and I interviewed her at Cooking Manager. I met her mother once without realizing who she was, and know a bunch of her cousins. But I haven’t yet met Ariela.

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the Facebook page about a 2010 post on blind parenting that still gets views and comments. Ariela said, “My mom, a polio survivor, raised 5 kids in a wheelchair and is actively helping raise the 14 grandkids who live nearby (the American grandkids get the short end of the stick). She does a much better job from a wheelchair than I do on my two legs. You might want to ask her to write a guest post or interview her.”

So I had a lovely talk with her mother, Dena. I liked what she said so much that I submitted the interview to “Raising Kvell” with the help of associate editor Sarah Tuttle Singer. I’ve linked to many articles on Kveller and I’m pleased to have my work featured there.

In the interview Dena mentions a sound she used to get toddlers to stop in their tracks. I asked whether she had taught her children that trick, and she replied that they wouldn’t have believed her. In the comments on the interview, another wheelchair mom mentioned that she had used the trick as well. Perhaps it works for them because the children realized their mothers had no other way of rescuing them.

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, the story of a friendship between two young couples who met as young professors during the Depression. One of the wives gets polio after her first baby is born. She goes to a rehabilitation center where they deliberately let the patients fall, so they will learn to depend on themselves. It sounds similar to Dena’s experience recovering from polio with Nurse Kenny’s techniques.

Read it here: Interview with Dena Gordon via Kveller


  1. You must contact Chavie Willig-Levy who raised her two kids from a wheelchair and whose husband is blind. She said that her kids from the earliest ages realized what their parents could do.

    • I know her husband Michael. Awesome guy, very loving father!

    • I know both Chava and Michael, although I know Chava better. Chava is BRILLIANT. She writes, she teaches, she speaks, she learns, she inspires…

      And I myself am “disabled”…severely to profoundly deaf…and I raised children too!

    • angel twedt says

      Hello my name is Angel I live in the lower mainland bc. I have ms and am in a wheelchair full time, I have a 2 year old daughter and my husband workes out of province. I do all my parenting from my wheelchair, I dont know any other moms in chairs. I am sad alot of times and feel like nobody can truly understand what Im going through, I guess Im looking to make a new friend.

      • Hi Angel, thanks for visiting. Are you able to get out of the house to meet other moms? Perhaps you can find a local group via the internet?

  2. This reminds me of my aunt , a polio victim who graduated as a doctor and had 2 kids. It seems their physcal difficullty has been compensated on an emotional and spiritual level that makes the connection with their children manifest on a deeper level

  3. I think she was so successful because she just had really great kids 🙂
    Or maybe despite us….

  4. Generally speaking , some kids are easy wired and great kids despite the parents , some are hard wired and parenting is challenging even with the most responsive and competent parents

  5. strong people will overcome any obstacle. have you seen the clip of the israeli gold rower in italy? on the other hand some people have no obstacles and seem to create them for themselves.

  6. You can probably say that Ariela is a superwoman given her circumstances. There are a lot of things to be positive about even if you are in a wheelchair. She should be emulated not only by moms but everyone. She is an inspiration to all people who think that they are weak.