Recently our family spent a much-needed weekend away at a cabin up in Northern Arizona. The cabin was spacious, and comfortable. While Daddy was flyfishing for a couple of hours, the girls and I painted watercolor pictures that we hung above the dining room table.We explored inside and outside of the cabin .It was nestled atop a slight hill, with a dirt road leading down to the main area where barns held the horses and cows that worked the ranch. The yard surrounding our cabin was small, so we decided to head down the hill. Zoe was in her Conaire cruiser stroller and Olivia kept pace walking beside me. The first obstacle was the four feet width of metal grates blocking our path. A cattle guard, and crossing it was the only way down the hill. The grates were far apart, so I carefully held 45 lb Zoe, balancing as I stepped across sideways. Next the stroller, and finally I hold Olivia’s hand and we cross together. We begin pushing Zoe down the hill and the moist dirt is soft and deep and resisting, but we push harder and soon we have made it to the bottom of the hill. We meet Daddy there, and suddenly horses begin galloping toward us. It is feeding time in the field before us, and horses are arriving from all directions, at different rates of speed. It is impressive .Soon there are more than twenty, gathering to eat. The children are squealing with delight. We celebrate our good fortune that we have come upon such a spontaneous, yet awesome event.
The next day we travel down again to the fishing pond. There, Zoe holds onto my hands so she can walk to the ponds edge. I am her legs, taking her somewhere her walker cannot go. I sit on the damp ground, supporting her waist while she stands, learning how to toss rocks into the pond. Olivia is receiving her first fishing lesson from Daddy. Within minutes, Zoe becomes impatient for her turn and begins pleading “ ….ish ….ish…” She wants to hold the pink Barbie fishing rod and start her lesson, too.
Had we stayed inside our comfortable cabin that first afternoon, waiting for Daddy’s return- we would have missed the awe inspiring show of the horses at feeding time. But from the windows in the dining room where we sat painting, I could see the barns at the bottom of the hill. I knew it would be a challenge walking our way down, but I wanted the girls to experience more of the ranch. An afternoon we will always remember, I am sure. I hope the girls remember the challenges,too. A simple lesson that you have to persist –when there are obstacles in your way. Even if they are physically challenging, the reward for your efforts can be great.
When Zoe was just a baby, we sought the opinion of the professionals involved in her care. Asking her physicians and therapists “ What are your expectations? Will she ever walk, or talk? They were the experts, back then, and there was only their opinion.
And so we held her, nurtured her, worked with her, cried with her, fought for her and protected her. She has grown into a happy, three-year old little girl. And now, I believe, it is the expectations that we,her parents have of her- that will define her. We have become the experts. We can empower and strengthen her, by helping her develop her capabilities. By expecting her to try, before she determines she is unable to accomplish something. By expecting her to practice, before she determines she cannot learn a new task. By expecting her to pursue her interests, experience new things and develop her abilities and talents so that she will live a passion filled life.
I struggle daily, reminding myself that she is no longer a baby, a toddler. She is a little girl, and for her to grow and develop to the best of her potential- we must expect her to accomplish certain things.
For today, I have begun with a blank sheet of paper. I am making a list of everything I do for her each day. I am specific, even with the small tasks- cleaning up, returning objects where they belong, turning on/off the lights in her room. Some of these things, we are helping her learn how to do for herself. And many are long term goals. But some of these little tasks, the ones I may overlook and not think about as we push through our daily routine, she can do. Albeit, with adaption, more time spent, and maybe not to perfection. First I cross off from the list the things I must do for her. Changing her diaper, putting on her shoes, administering her medicine. What is remaining, are the small tasks she can do for herself. This is what we will start with. These “ mini” tasks will be my starting expectations for her today. Something for her to accomplish, and something for us to celebrate. Just the beginning of a special needs mom, understanding what my child needs……. expectations.