I don’t get it, kid. You’re almost nineteen months and you won’t walk on your own. You’re fearless, otherwise. You aren’t afraid of dogs, cats, bugs, getting dirty, water, trying new foods, your slide, or doing crazy balancing acts on the couch. You’re not afraid of the vacuum or lawn mower. Or screaming. Or letting us know exactly how you feel. But standing and walking … you’re hesitant. The experts tell me you’re suffering from sensory processing disorder. Your grandparents just say you’re stubborn. I don’t know what to think.
Anytime the subject comes up, I’m told the same things by family and friends. 1: She’ll get there. And 2: All kids develop at different times. I know these are things people say when they aren’t sure what else to say, and I know they all mean well. But when it’s your kid who won’t walk, these comments seem to stir up more questions. When? When will she do it? And why? Why is it taking my kid longer than others? She’s extremely verbal and so very intelligent. What’s the deal?
The definition of sensory processing disorder is “a condition that exists when multisensory integration is not adequately processed in order to provide appropriate responses to the demands of the environment.” Yep. This still doesn’t clear anything up for me. I do know that you panic when I try to make you walk on your own and get really frustrated when I challenge you. Out of fear. You’re terrified of gravity. You can’t adequately make sense of where your body is in space. I see it on your face and I hear it in your cries. And I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better. You’re not old enough to be rational, and I struggle with not wanting to traumatize you.
I always assumed that when I became a mom, my kid would go through all the usual milestones at the usual times. I wasn’t prepared to hear the word “delayed”. My heart sinks a little when your friends are all running around and you’re trying to keep up by crawling behind them. I think one of the big fears as a mother is that your child won’t “fit in” with their peers. I know you’ll get over this hump eventually, but what will this mean for your future? Will it always be a struggle you deal with?
And then a few days ago, I handed you a snack and you looked up at me with those piercing little blue eyes, hair waving in the wind and said, “Thank you,” with a little grin. It took me a moment to realize that you were holding your food with two hands, and standing on your own. You didn’t even seem to notice. You were too focused on the yummy snack I had just given you. It was a moment of excitement for you in that you were about to eat something good. It was so much more than that for me.
For a few seconds, I saw my baby girl standing. My mind is just so accustomed to seeing you sitting on the floor, playing. Or cruising around the room, holding onto furniture. I was so proud of you for overcoming this one small obstacle. Because for you, it’s not small. It’s a giant hurdle in your mind. When you realized you were standing, you sunk back down to the ground, content to eat your food in the grass. I didn’t push it. But I loved it. I love the picture, now stored in my mind, of you standing on your own. I know this will just lead to more and more gravitational awareness and growth for you. Some people may think, big deal. The kid stood.
But it is a big deal. The biggest deal to me. And I cannot wait to share this progress with your physical therapist on Friday. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. You remind me daily to appreciate the small things and not to overthink too much. And I need those reminders. You are perfect the way you are. I wouldn’t change anything about you, Avery. Your sense of humor is hilarious. Your speech blows me away. So, for now, I’ll just keep reminding myself that all kids develop at different paces, and that you will walk on your own. Someday. When you’re good and ready. And you’ll do it because you want to do it, not because the rest of us are pushing you. Because that’s how you work. I hope you never change.