My daughter was born with a physical impairment which makes moving around tricky, so you can imagine how hard it was for her to learn to walk. But she did, slowly, painfully, and with hope and determination, she found a way to make her wobbly legs and ataxic body stand up. Pulling up to stand took over a year. Cruising around from chair to book case to table took several more months. And then, at age three, she took that first step out into the living room, away from the protective stability of the couch, where she weaved as if trying to walk on a ship in the middle of a storm before falling smack on her butt.
She cried and screamed with frustration, then crawled back to the couch, pulled herself to standing, and tried walking again. One, two, three, four steps... then WHAM, back on the floor. It took six months before she could walk across the living room, still weaving back and forth like a sailor, but eventually finding her own sense of balance. Triumphantly she stood on the other side of the room as she looked back to see how far she'd travelled.
Despite her best efforts, she still fell down. ALOT. That's when we started calling it a "Gravity Check."
"Gravity Check! It's still working," I said while I helped her stand back up and regain her balance. She'd laugh, and try to walk again.
Eventually she started to say it to herself when she fell on the floor. "Gabbidy Chick." This would make her giggle which helped with the frustration and encouraged her to try again.
Every transition in a child's life is a Gravity Check for parents. We see our tiny babies grow into toddlers, then children, lose their first baby tooth, go to Kindergarten, graduate from elementary school and become teens. When your child has a disability, those Gravity Checks are a little stronger. The natural fear all parents deal with is amplified and it's a struggle to tame that panic every time we let our children out of our sight. Who will keep her safe? Who will help her stand back up when she falls? Will she be happy?
My daughter is now thirteen and about to enter Jr. High. This Gravity Check is a rough one. She may be ready to grow up and be a teenager, but I'm not. I'm scared, tired, frustrated, and proud all at once. I'm happy to see how strong and beautiful she has become, how funny and intelligent, but I'm nervous about the perils of 7th grade and the social problems she may have to cope with. Can we do this?
Then I remember how she fought to learn to walk, despite how many times we were told by "experts" that she never would. Oh yeah? Just watch me, doc, she says as she races away with her walker. Sure she stumbles around like a drunken sailor, but she's the most beautiful drunken sailor you've ever seen.
I started this blog to connect with other parents who are raising a child with a disability, especially teenagers, and I'd love to hear your comments.