Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's Get Real: Playground Edition

I tend to keep the posts on this blog fairly positive, focusing mainly on progress, or research I've come across and how it has effected Kiddo.  But this blog is about the journey, and sometimes the journey is difficult, filled with ups and downs.  So, bloggy friends and family, let's get real:

The weather has been getting nice enough for us to play outside more.  I took both boys to the park today, to let them play on the playground and check out the ducks and geese who inhabit the area.

Kiddo immediately climbs onto the tractor at the playground and starts rocking it back and forth.  I'm so proud, since last time we were here (ok months ago, because of the cold weather) he needed help getting up and down from it.  I snap a picture.  He even gets down by himself.  Huge accomplishment.

Kiddo starts climbing up a rock wall, and I know he's going to need help halfway up.  But Little Brother is running after the ducks who are trying to flee the scene.  So I leave Kiddo to fend for himself on the rock wall while I return Little Brother to the playground area and then assist Kiddo, who has started screaming bloody murder because he's too scared to go up or down.  I help him to the top and he claps in pride.  Mission accomplished there, I turn back to Little Brother, help him up the stairs, watch to make sure he doesn't step off those stupid platform things where the ladders and poles and climbing things are.  Seriously, who makes this stuff?  Don't they know it's dangerous for little ones who can't climb and could just walk right off and seriously injure themselves?

And then a playgroup has arrived, three moms and seven children.  I remind myself not to compare Kiddo to the other kids.  It's honestly so hard to not compare your child to others, to see how far behind he is from his peers who can tell stories and go across monkey bars, while mine struggles to climb up the stairs holding onto the railing and his longest phrase is "I want to eat, please," and even that is with lots of prompting.  Without prompting it is simply "eat," or worse him staring at me in expectation without saying a word.

So, instead of falling into the comparison trap I try to remember how much progress Kiddo has made.  I think about how awesome his little heart is, how much I love him, and that's what ultimately matters.  I remind myself of the verse "People look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)  It's a verse I have to remind myself of often, and it really does help.

But not always.  A little boy, who I can tell is younger than Kiddo, starts telling me all about himself, his big brother, the squirrels and the ducks.  "That's cool," I tell him as I run off to save Little Brother from falling off the platform thingy I despise so greatly.

I wonder what Kiddo thinks about, what he would tell to a complete stranger if he was able to talk.  I'd give anything to hear him share his thoughts.

I dart jealous glances at the three moms who are sitting on a bench and talking.  One of them is nursing an infant around 10 or 11 months, but otherwise, the mothers seem to have forgotten they have children and are fully engrossed in their conversation.  Granted, the youngest child of theirs on the playground is probably 2 1/2 so they don't need as much looking after as Little Brother, but how I long to be able to sit on a bench and proudly watch my boys play all by themselves, or engage in a full conversation with another adult while our children played.

Then I start to second guess myself again.  Am I too overprotective?  Should I leave Kiddo alone, let him learn how to do things on his own, and be willing to let him fall?  But that's not how motor planning works for kids like him.  He needs me to show him how to do things.  Right???

Oh, but how inviting that other bench looks.

I hear one of the kids ask their mother what something is and why it's all over the ground.  It's one of those spiky seed pod things.  She ignores him.  He comes back over to the playground looking sad and I tell him I don't know what they're called, but they come from the trees above us, and they're spiky to keep the seeds safe inside of it.  He looks at the spiny ball in his hands and then up at the trees above us in awe and Kiddo decides he wants to play with those too.  He picks up a few and throws them at a tree.

I'm annoyed at the mom who couldn't take the time to answer her child's questions.  Sure, he probably asks a million a day, but since mine hasn't asked a single one yet, I'd gladly tell him whatever he wanted to know more about.  I just want to know what goes on in Kiddo's head, what he thinks and wonders about the world and I would hate to ever take it for granted and ignore it.  Maybe I will one day, but I hope not.

A few seconds later, I hear Kiddo screaming again.  He's trying to climb up the tunnel slide because he's seen the other kids do it, but he can only make it half way before he slides down on his tummy.  I bring Little Brother over and give Kiddo a boost, encouraging him to put his hands in the holes along the sides of the slide for support.  That helps him get about 2/3 of the way up, and I can't help him up more than that and he starts sliding down again and screaming.  I'm contemplating climbing up the slide behind him (except that then I can't watch Little Brother) when a little girl comes up behind us and tells me she'll help him.  I'm relieved.  She's around Kiddo's age, maybe a tiny bit older.  She pushes on his behind, encouraging him to go up the slide, but then she notices he's wearing a diaper.  "You don't use the potty yet?  Are you a baby?"

Since Kiddo doesn't respond, she takes this as a yes.  "Diaper Baby, Diaper Baby, go on up!" she says.  I'm wondering if she's taunting him, if it's possible to be a playground bully at such a young age, or if she's just made up this name with no ill feelings.  My heart aches.  I start fearing the type of bullying he may experience when he's older, when more kids and when Kiddo himself are aware of his differences and I become even further convinced that I should home school him so not only can I continue to teach him and help him with his speech and motor skills and motor planning, but also to protect him from the school bullies.  Kids can be so darn mean.

Kiddo is screaming again. "Don't scream, Diaper Baby!  Screaming hurts your throat.  Just talk like me.  Talking is so easy even my baby brother can do it!  He can say 12 words," she says in a proud sing-song voice, and my heart breaks and I want to cry.  But also, I'm kind of mad at her and I want to yell at her and tell her and her mother (who still hasn't looked up from her conversation and whom I now assume is the woman feeding the baby who can talk already) that potty training and talking and climbing are not easy for everyone.  I want them to know about apraxia.

But I say nothing, though I cheer for Kiddo when he finally makes it to the top of that terrible slide. He's clapping again, a huge proud grin and tears on his face.  I return the grin, tell him how proud of him I am, and I give him a high five.  And I remember why we don't go to playgrounds more often.  It's exhausting for me: physically and emotionally.

I help Kiddo down the slide and we leave the playground area and wander over to the bridge that goes across the river, where we can throw sticks and rocks into the water and have lots of little boy fun without other people around.  As we head back toward our car I watch Kiddo chase those silly geese (silly being his word, not mine) across the street, I marvel again at his heart, his grin, his giggle, and his progress.  And my heart feels joy and pride and alive again.


  1. O.k. This made me cry for you! And makes me want to go to the playground with you! You are doing a great job!

    1. Thanks Renee! You can come to the playground with us anytime. :)

    2. I should go! And those spiky things are sweet gum balls. Don't ever plant one in your yard! Just admire them at the park!

    3. Haha, yes, I have NO intention of ever planting one. Those things were everywhere! Thanks for letting me know what they're called. :)

  2. I am crying right now as I read this. Sigh. I hate it. I hate that it's so hard. I can relate to every single sentence in this post. This is the exact reason why I quit taking Cooper to ECFE (an early childhood class 1X a week). I couldn't take watching the other moms relax and enjoying themselves. I was sweating and chasing Cooper and worn down and irritable. Which so isn't me. I know the correct advice is don't compare. But it is absolutely impossible. Here is what I will tell you. You are playing with your boys. You are an amazing mom who cares SO MUCH and you are doing the best job. Even if you your son didn't have delays you would still be climbing slides and chasing them all around. You are doing a GREAT job!! Sending you hugs.

    1. Thanks Kate! You are doing great with Cooper as well! Sorry I made you cry, just had to share what it can be like sometimes, which I know you know all too well. Hope you and all your boys are doing well! :)