There is a tension that is a constant companion when parenting children with more than your average number of challenges. That would be the ongoing challenge of balancing the desire to help your child achieve all that they are capable of and accepting your child just as they are. I find it to be such a fine line that I am continually veering off the edge on one side or another, given the situation at any moment of the day.
I have a pretty continual running dialogue in my head over what is best at that moment. If I just push a tiny bit harder will I encourage her to get past the hard and do it? Am I asking too much? If we give up on this now are we stopping just short of a new skill? Shouldn't I just accept my children as they are and be patient about what the future holds for them? These are the types of questions that echo in my head. And usually the answer is I have no idea; I'm really just making this up as I go along and relying heavily on my gut instincts.
Sometimes the decision is based on how much energy we all have at a given moment. Some days I just accept where everyone is. No one has the energy to do anything else. Other days (and I can't even tell you why exactly) are more pushing days. It just feels as though the child is ready for something more, and so we work. And then there are the days where I just can't allow this child to stay in this place and I push a little harder than usual.
I always feel a little mean, pushing a child. Staying at one developmental level is easy and it is hard work to learn new skills; to try new and uncomfortable things. Yet, sometimes that little extra push is what was needed because suddenly the awareness that they are capable of more grabs hold of them. They have caught a glimpse of being able to do new things and the next day I will discover a child trying out the skill on their own, voluntarily, that we worked so hard to do the day before.
R.'s most recent accomplishment is case in point. Body awareness and movement is a struggle for her. She doesn't move through space easily and often seems to not know where her body is. Yesterday as we were working (again) on not stepping on things or walking into people, I realized that while she can walk, in reality she has very little independent leg movement. It is very difficult, if not impossible for her to lift one leg for the duration it takes her to figure out the best place to put her foot down. Until a child can do that, it means living with Godzilla stomping through Tokyo. There is nothing physically wrong with her legs (yes, I had it checked out with the doctor... put the flame throwers away), so I decided that it was worth the sanity of the entire family to work on leg independence in the form of standing on one leg.
And so we worked on it. Even just me holding on to her and lifting one leg elicited unhappy shrieks. (Shrieking is her default mode of showing unhappiness.) We worked for a little bit, her shrieking, me feeling rotten and encouraging her, with the angel child phenomenon twirling around us. You know this phenomenon, right? Where one child gets in trouble or can't do something and suddenly every other child in the house has polished their halos and points out how good they are? Well, this time, it was every other child in the house, including Y., "helpfully" showing me how they can stand on one leg. H. also used the moment to process her own development asking if I had to teach her how to stand on one leg since she couldn't remember. I told her that yes, I had to teach her. She was just quieter.
Today? R. has decided that she is going to figure this out. I have caught her practicing multiple times this morning. (And the fact that she is taking the initiative to do this is as huge as the physical skill. Maybe bigger.) Finally, R. called my name and I looked and see that she is on the balance beam (voluntarily and got up on her own) and she is practicing standing on one leg. See?
Now, we still have some work to do to achieve actual balance, but the fact that she is voluntarily standing on one leg, especially after our experience yesterday, is pretty much beyond words.
Sometimes baby steps are really, really big.