On Being Her legs

I desperately want her to walk.

It was the first time I had admitted this out loud.  I've always heard about moms who never doubt their child will walk.  I'm not one of them.  Before she was born and when she was a newborn, I was too afraid to be that kind of mom.  I was terrified of the thought of her thinking I wouldn't accept her or love her as much if she didn't walk.  I don't believe that the quality of life is defined by the ability to walk.  And I didn't want her to ever read somewhere or hear that I insisted she walk.  In fact, I even began to plan how I could pink out a wheelchair if doctors told me that would be best for her.  It's not that I didn't believe she could walk... I just wanted to embrace my daughter regardless of whether or not she walked. And my love for her was not conditional upon her mobility.  So I was cautious for a long time about mobility.

It's a fine line for us moms.  We have to carefully balance as we push our children to achieve and yet accept them just as they are.

It's a daily struggle for me as I push push push in therapy... and yet want her to feel accepted just as she is.  And I push push push Will to be successful in various tasks...while also wanting him to know it is okay to ask for help and I accept him just as he is.

I'll never forget the day her therapist in Dallas and her doctor told me they believed she would walk.

So I've fought and struggled and pushed and worn us all out with therapies.  Because I have every reason to believe that she will walk.  (And I'm still planning on pinking out a walker. :)

Recently, she began hydratherapy.  I want her to do a few sessions so that I can learn it and implement it in the water with her this winter.  Both kids love to swim so I thought we might join an indoor pool for a few months.

But for some reason, it bothered me watching her in the water.  It seemed like I was turning a once peaceful, playful place into just another place to work.

After that, I hurriedly took Will to preschool where I spent some time checking his letter journal and watching him work on his letters so that I could show his Dallas OT a few days later as we worked to creatively figure out ways to help him be more successful in school.  He is really struggling with writing and coloring and after watching him, I see why.  It's a challenge for him in so many ways and I so want him to be successful.

I left his school feeling wiped out already from the morning and not knowing how best to help each of my children.  I felt overwhelmed and exhausted and it was only 10am.

I called one of my best friends and burst into tears saying, "I desperately want her to walk."

I just had never admitted it outloud before.

But I do.

Sometimes I forget she is technically a toddler.  Her crib mattress is still at the highest setting since she is not independently getting into a sit yet.  Yet.

She is not pulling up or cruising. Yet.

She is scooting - on certain surfaces.  And it is glorious.  I cheer loudly.

And she can roll like a little maniac.  I love her wild rolling.

At nearly 15 months (tomorrow!) I get asked a lot by strangers about her walking.  And sometimes, this is just a painful reminder that she is not yet (yet!) walking.  Usually, I can just reply to the random person in the grocery store or the post office that while she is not walking yet, she is a rolling fiend and she is on her timeline.  They look at me quizzically.  So I then distract them by focusing on them... even though I confess that I really don't want to hear all about how fast someone's 10 month old grandchild is running or how clearly advanced they are because they walked early... It's just that it's a common question when someone finds out a baby is over a year old.  They want to know about walking.  Or crawling.  And this reminds me that she is, in fact, a toddler.

This morning, not twenty minutes ago, I was helping to set up at Will's preschool for a Thanksgiving feast.  I sat Ellie down in a corner of the auditorium while I cut pies and set tables.  I sat down my fifteen month old.  And I knew she would be fine - she would, in fact, just sit right where I placed her.  I wasn't concerned that she might crawl or walk away.  A woman came up to me and commented on Ellie's good behavior... and then followed it with "it that were our kids, they would be running all over the place.  And she's just sitting there!"  She meant it as a compliment.  I think.  But it felt like a painful stab - a reminder that my toddler isn't toddling.  That she isn't pulling up on tables and pulling things off.  She isn't crawling around.  She isn't running around.  And after a morning of therapy, frankly, I wish sometimes that she were able to just take off.  To be honest, this wasn't the first time this particular person has made an insensitive comment.  And I've never known how to respond.  I don't want to embarrass her but yet I also wish I knew how to educate her.  I realize she may have no idea about Ellie's condition - but obviously Ellie is wearing splints... and she looks like a toddler.  Or maybe she just thinks I have super obedient children and I told her to "stay." :)  Regardless, it was another painful reminder.

Recently, she's also had some close calls while doing therapy with me.  One of the things we are really pushing her on is her reflexes.  It is not instinctive  for her to catch herself when falling.  So a huge huge risk for Ellie is falls and injuries related to falling.  Her arms don't stop her from a potential head injury.  Twice in the last week she has nearly fallen and my heart nearly stops as I watch her just free fall with her hands no where near protecting her head.  And so while I long for her to walk, I fear it too.  I don't worry about falls with her scooting and rolling.

I've struggled recently as I realize that she is a toddler even if she is not toddling.  Yet she has been stuck in sunday school classes or Bible study classes with infants.  So, I asked recently to have her put with her age group and volunteered to assist with her so that she can be around her peers even if she is not developmentally performing like them. So far, this week, she's done great in both situations while being surrounded by her peers.  And she hasn't been toppled yet by a toddler.

I struggle to treat her like a toddler instead of a baby.  I struggle to find toys that are age appropriate for her yet that she can do independently.  I struggle to know what I should expect of her.

I struggle because sometimes I just want to snuggle her and cuddle with her and sometimes I slack and don't do her therapy as much as I should during the day.  And then I tell myself that I will have to look her in the eyes and confess this someday to her and the guilt creeps in.

Sometimes I just want to enjoy her instead of feeling so rushed to get to therapies  or taping or tired from doing them.

I've heard moms say that life is over when their baby learns to walk.  I've heard that apparently a walker gets into lots of trouble.  I've heard that moms get so tired of chasing a toddler around.

I love having a baby in my arms.

But.  I yearn for the day she can walk away from me at a park.  I yearn for the day she can toddle around with her friends while we play outside.  I yearn for her to be able to chase her big brother.  I long to be able to call her and have her come to my arms.

Maybe that's one of the blessings in being a mom of a child who has some developmental delays.  We don't dread any milestones.  We celebrate them.  We don't feel like life as we know it is over... we long for the day our child walks or talks or reaches a goal we've worked on.

And somehow, by the grace of God, we learn to relish the moments and the work and the challenges it takes to get there.  We learn to find joy in the scooting and in the privilege of being given longer to just hold the toddler as if she were still an infant.

We know it is an honor to be their legs until they can do it themselves.

So for now, though I long for her to toddle, I'll hold my girl and praise her rolling and scooting and I'll be her legs for her so she can play with others.

And someday.  Someday she will walk.  And I'll cheer and cry just like I did for him and then I'll throw a party.

Because that's what we moms who serve our kids as their legs do.

And because by the grace of God, she too will someday be a walking miracle.

I can't wait.  Except that I am waiting.  And I'm learning to find the joy in the wait.  Because for now, she's in my arms.  And I love having her here.

4 thoughts:

The Reeves bunch said...

Man, you just wrote everything that I have been thinking in my head out. I worry all the time about Eli and what he is accomplishing. It is so wonderful to know that there is another mother out there going through the same thing that you are. Praying for you...

BMarie said...

I really, really enjoy reading your blog. You could even say I love it! You are an outstanding person and mother. I love learning all about your beautiful and amazing children. You have opened my eyes to so very much and I appreciate it more than I can tell you. I have a daughter that just turned 15 months old too - on Monday the 14th. I am a working mom, so I take a break each day at work to read your blog. When I see pics of Ellie and that gorgeous, contagious smile it makes me smile and miss my daughter. I fantasize about how my Maizy and Ellie could be friends!! So if you're ever in Utah for some reason I would love to meet you and your darling children for a lunch date. You are all a true inspiration!! Thank you.

Katie - a Blessed Mommy! said...

Hey Amanda! Yes - it is comforting to know there are moms out there who get it. Thanks for reading & praying!
BMarie- So nice to "meet" you! Where in UT are you? We took Will there when he was a baby to go skiing - a beautiful state! (he was 4 mts old so no skiing for him - just to clarify :))
We would love to meet you too someday! Thanks for reading our story- K

amaleesto said...

I love reading your blog! As a single woman who longs to be a mother someday and as a therapist who (shockingly admits) oftentimes needs to be reminded of the realities/fears that plague our families but also of the great hope & love & expectation! And, of course, I thoroughly enjoy the updates of the sensational scooting, rolling, prewalking girl!

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