MECENZIE HOWARD (left) was born with cerebral palsy and is preparing to represent Australia in Paralympic boccia. TAYLA HOWARD is her older sister.
MECENZIE HOWARD, 15:
When we were at primary school together, Tayla was being picked on so I ran over this girl with my wheelchair and knocked her over with my electric wheelchair. I was in kindie at the time.
Tayla is applying for guardianship if anything happens to Mum and Dad. When I heard, I thought ‘‘yes’’.
I like to be out there where she just likes to be a quiet person and always on the computer doing stuff. She’s always asking me why I am so loud, I say I don’t know. As punishment, she tells me she’s not going to help me go to the bathroom. Then I learn my lesson – but I still do it.
If I am stuck with something, she helps me. Sometimes I get so frustrated because she is always there to help me and I don’t like telling her to go away. I want to do it by myself, but I can’t. That’s the difficult part.
She helps me do my boccia training. Sometimes, for target practice, I need something to aim at so she lies on the floor and I get to roll them at her. Sometimes I do it hard for the fun of it.
We do anything and everything together – we go to the movies, we go shopping.
Without my disability, we would be leading more separate lives. It brings us closer.
She’s been taking me to concerts – I went to see The X Factor winner, Reece Mastin. Because I am disabled, I normally get front row seats. I went to The Voice auditions and Tayla insisted on taking me when I told her I got front row seats.
When she went to schoolies, I kept calling her every day and I was counting down the days until she got back. She may have to stay up in Sydney for a couple of nights a week when she starts uni this year.
I told her it would be so different, because I would have no-one to pick fights with.
TAYLA HOWARD, 18:
Looking at her, you see the blonde curly hair, the big blue eyes, the cheeky little grin and your first thought is ‘‘little angel’’. Then she starts talking and it’s, oh my goodness.
She’s the loudest, craziest, funniest... she is so energetic and has so much passion for everything that she does. It’s a bit overwhelming actually.
Strangers look at her first and see the wheelchair and can be a bit hesitant. They talk slowly and about her to me. Then she’ll tell them that she’s not deaf. Then she’ll start talking and then they do a double take. She’s the loud one compared to me.
Her disability has sculpted who she is and what she can do, but it has also made her more outgoing and willing to give everything a go. She doesn’t let it restrict her much. If she sees me do something, she’ll try and do it herself.
I have helped her with home stuff since I was about three. I have always been a bit more mature and don’t let the little things affect me in my life. When friends complained about their chores, I was taking her to the bathroom or packing up her wheelchair. It was just what was done.
It meant I couldn’t always relate as well as I would have liked to people my own age, I had this other part of me that no-one else understood. I know, compared to other people, our family is different.
There is absolutely nothing to pity me about having a disabled sister. We don’t pity ourselves. I wouldn’t change my life at all. We have been given so many opportunities because of our family situation. I wouldn’t change Mecenzie’s personality at all because that is what’s made her who she is.
Most people would look after their little siblings, but for me it won’t matter what age we are – I’ll still look after her. She’s my sister, I’m not going to ship her off to a home somewhere.
We fight like normal siblings but we would do anything for each other.