In 1992 Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal for figure skating at the Olympics. Weirdly, I clearly remember the bio piece that they played before she skated. In it, they talked about how she was born with foot/leg problems and had to wear casts, braces, special shoes (I just wikipedia'd to fortify my 12 yr old memory, and she was born with club feet.) They talked about how her parents always knew she would walk and run, and that she started skating as a form of physical therapy. I (along with most of the country, probably) thought "Wow! Good for her! And good for her parents, for always having hope and never giving up!"
Kristi Yamaguchi with casted legs/feet. I'm not BFFs with her or anything, I just found this on Google images.
I mean, I was 12. I saw a picture of a little girl with casted legs and thought, how can any parent look at their casted up child and keep the faith that she will walk and run and jump? I marveled at their hope and faith.
But maybe they didn't have hope or faith.
Maybe they just knew.
I have a child with splints and a walker, who passed by her first and second birthdays without taking her first steps . . . but I can absolutely say that from the first times that I saw her stand and play, I've known Maya will walk.
Without a doubt. 100%. She would walk. It might take a few months, or a few years. She may need giant leg braces or walkers or crutches for a long while. But she'll walk. (And although we're not there yet, I also know that she'll run and she'll climb stairs. It will come.)
Not faith. Not hope. Not bravado. Just simple certainty.
The same simple way that you know that spring follows winter, I knew that someday Maya would walk.
Before we got to the walking, there was waiting, stretching, taping, splinting, laying on the mats and doing exercises. Propping her to stand at the coffee table and play standing up, shuffling just out of reach and lifting her feet for her to feel a step. Pulling to stand, then sitting. Pulling to stand, then sitting. Enticing her to cruise along the side of the couch by carrying my laptop to the end, then tricking her to go back and cruise the other way.
There was work. There was practice.
There was the mental marking of an infinite number of baby step celebrations (Her foot didn't turn like that yesterday! She couldn't get up so quickly a week ago!)
But there was quiet, patient certainty. I wasn't hoping she would walk, I wasn't kidding myself or keeping my chin up, I just knew she would. Clear, simple knowledge.
How did I know? I could see it. I'm with her all the time. I can see tiny shifts in her abilities that many, many people would miss. While strangers might see that she falls over 7 times at the playground, I see that she caught herself with her hands 7 times (!), and she's not tipping over backwards as often.
They see the things that she has trouble doing, and I see how far she's come.
They see the things that she can't do yet, and I see that this month she can do things that were inconceivable 2 months back.
They see a girl held back by splints and a walker, and I see a girl who is zooming (sometimes too quickly for her own good) around a mall.
They see disabilities, and I see new abilities.
And I'm not judging them for it . . . really, how could an outsider see it any other way? They see her walker and her, um, interesting new way of taking steps (she looks like she's rock climbing as she walks---hands and arms in the air as she overcompensates for her weak core by using her arms to help her go) and it really jumps out that she's working harder than the average toddler to get around. It's easy to see her challenges, but it's impossible to see how far she's come.
Hands up, like she's climbing rocks, to help her move and balance
But I see it all the time. And luckily, it doesn't matter much to me what other people think she'll be able to do (well, except for Dave. But that's for another post, maybe a "part 2").
I would bet that there are a lot of other moms out there who feel the same way. Although I had the idea for this post a while ago, I waited until she was actually walking to speak my mind, just in case there were any sweetly sympathetic readers out there who might respond with the cheery "Oh, Dana, of course she'll walk! Keep the faith! Fight the fight! Keep smiling!" I love the positivity, but it kind of misses the point for this.
What's the point again?
I guess the point is that parents are often gathering massive amounts of qualitative data on their kids (oh, my science nerdiness is showing, isn't it?). We remember the past, and we're proud of where we are today. (If you see a toddler with a walker at the playground, don't feel bad for that kid---she's happy to be moving independently. And don't feel bad for the mom, as she's likely excited that the walker is working, and wondering how she can help her kid get up the stairs to follow the other kids.)
Also, we can see the future. Kind of. Sometimes it's just easy to see the road our kids are walking on, and we can be totally certain of something that you may think we're wishing and praying for. Sometimes, for us, it's easy to see.
(And lest anyone roll their eyes and think "This must be easy to write, now that Maya is taking her first steps and all", I'll throw another one out there. Maya will talk some day. I'm completely sure. Maybe not until she's 5 or 6-or later- but she wants to, and she tries. Someday her muscles will catch up, and words will come. I don't say it boldly, or as a dare, it's just a simple truth . . . after summer comes fall, and someday Maya will talk. Simple.)