Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple certainty & Kristi Yamaguchi. Wait, what? Kristi Yamaguchi?

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.)


Meghan said...

Beautifully written. Go Maya!

lisa said...


you have said it all along. and i am happy the time has come. she has come so far!!!!

kris said...

love this post, d. you are remembering the 12 year old you, and i can see the 14 year old you (well, us)...and one of the things i always loved and admired about you was your optimism...but also your willingness to put in the work. maya's clearly inherited that determination and positive attitude.

Lyn said...


grandma said...

many, many months ago i remember being there during therapy and asking what they were "working on" that day. i don't remember your answer but i do remember you said it wasn't about getting her to walk because that was something she definitely would be able to do in the future so it ws better to work on other things.i know that i hoped and i prayed but you . . . just knew :-)

Unknown said...

She is doing so amazing! This is well written- the writers block didn't hold you back for long!

Lindsey said...

I've been working with atypically developing children (at the CDC's EI program) for a number of years. While it cannot be quantified or proven by any scientific study, I have noticed a direct correlation between how much confidence parents have in their child achieving a (realistic) goal - a confidence so perfectly encapsulated by your post here - and the chances that their child will actually accomplish it.

It's the difference between wistfully hoping something will one day happen, or defeatedly thinking it probably never will, and just knowing, in one's gut, that the child can make it happen. Of course hard work is needed to actually make it happen (by mom, dad, therapists, and most significantly the child), but there is something absolutely magical about mom and/or dad's certainty (sometimes in the face of everyone else's uncertainty and disbelief) that makes things happen. It is absolutely infectious - to the child, and all other adults who work with her.

What a gift you have given, and are giving, to Maya!

Unknown said...

As a gymnastics coach of 13 years I've worked with all levels of kids. What is amazing about the spirit of a child, compared to that of an adult, 9 times out of 10 kids will compensate their stronger muscles for the weaker muscles. Just as Maya does when she walks. She has figured out an adaptive way to work around her weaker core muscles and make her balance work for her. Very, very inspirational.

P.S. You know once she starts talking she'll repeat what she's heard you say for the last 3 or 4 years. That could be good, that could be bad.:)But whatever she chooses to say first, what magical words those will be!

Cin said...

I Love this post !! (I love them all, but this one comes very close to home) My son Jacob was born with severe bilateral clubfeet (and many other challenges as well) he had total reconstructive surgery on both feet at 7 months old, his doctor told us he wouldn't even try to stand until 18 to 24 months, he stood before 12 months and walked by 14 months. Children are amazing in their ability to adapt and overcome the challenges they face. Just as my son Jacob has managed to adapt and/or overcome all the challenges he faces, so will your beautiful daughter. She is lucky to have a mommy that has so much positive energy and is so supportive of her. Go Maya !!

Foxxy One said...

Amen! Hey - have you ever thought about hippotherapy for her? With her love of animals, she'd probably do wonderfully. Plus, it's great for her core muscles. Just check out the NAHRA's website to find a therapeutic riding center. That's what we did and Dylan is doing incredibly well with it.

Coleen said...

That was awesome to read!! brought tears to my eyes!! I am so happy for the 3 of you... you bring such a way of looking at things - a new perspective that we all could really step back and use every now and then! Thanks!!

JC said...

I thought this post was beautiful in so many ways. I have learned to notice every single new movement my son makes, no matter how small...Things I know no one else sees. It was just yesterday I was worrying over him learning to walk and if he will need support, like special shoes or braces and it made me sad...This post was very comforting to me, it was just so beautifuly written and something I really needed to read right now. Thank you for sharing.

Cheryl (in Buffalo) said...

Amazingly well put :) My daughter lost all sound (the words she had, babbling, sounds,whispers, ....everything...just after she turned a year old).....and all the medical experts told me she might never get anything back. Well, no one still knows why it happened (overnight...while she slept), but she talks all the time now, and while I am telling her to quiet down, I remind myself that I never stopped believing.....so I am glad that you never stop believing.....Sending you hugs and strength....

marie clare said...

Yep, sometimes you just know, Ryans not walking yet but I know he will someday. Youre so right, it isnt a hope or a maybe, just a certaintly we know in our hearts :)

Mrs. Baumann said...

. . . And we will be listening :).

Thank you, Dana, for the beautiful lense from which you teach.


Jaymi said...

Beautiful. This has definitely become one of my favorite posts of yours (although I do love them all). I think the positive vibes we send our children makes such a difference. Go Maya! Can't wait to hear about her running and walking up the stairs and talking!

Anonymous said...

'Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to'. I think this is a wonderful quote, and something that has kept me going through difficult times xx

Tanya said...

I'm bookmarking this one. In fact, I'm printing out. In fact, I'm sending it to my mom. Reading this is the "shot in the arm" we all need. You and Maya are rockstars.

Anonymous said...

Your article left me speechless! The similiarities between your daughter's journey and my own daughter's are eerie. I too have a daughter (coincidentally named Maya lol) who did not learn to crawl or walk until much later than her peers. As a result, she needed a walker and AFOs to help her maintain her posture and balance. When meeting with her phyical therapists, I often felt that they did not have the same confidence in her abilities that I did. Just like you said, I knew my daughter would walk. When, I couldn't tell you. I just knew it would happen as much as I knew the sun would rise and set each day. I am happy to say that not only is Maya walking, she's doing it without the assistive devices. Just the other day she stepped onto the curb by herself without help! To others, an insignificant feat but to me, an amazing accomplishment. Once again, thank you for your amazing article!!!