Last fall, we had a very respectable doctor from a very respectable hospital tell us that Eddie may never walk independently. We were seeking an orthopedic consult, and instead were offered a free wheelchair, and a possible Cerebral Palsy diagnosis. I don’t even have to say that we were crushed by this appointment, and the information we were not prepared to get.
Luckily, the doctor’s forecast was inaccurate, and Eddie continues to make great strides in mobility. For example, this past weekend we went camping with some friends. We were surrounded by great canyons, drop-offs, and natural hazards. (Just like any good camping trip.) For the first time, I was concerned that Eddie may walk off all by himself. I have never had to worry about that before…ever. Eddie never felt comfortable enough to walk off without a parent. Now, he strides towards that independence more every day.
Also on this trip were multiple opportunities to hike. We had recently thought about getting a wheelchair with heavy duty tires so Eddie could join us on family hikes. Even though we thought about it, neither of us has yet been convinced that he needs such a device. This weekend, we simply decided to put his hiking legs to the test. Eddie joined the group just like all the other kids, and walked until he just couldn’t take another step.
Taking Eddie on the hike brought up a hundred teaching moments that wouldn’t have occurred had I sat and waited with him at the campsite. We talked about the slope of the trail, and how it continually went up and down. We talked about the sounds around us of birds, marmots, and the gigantic waterfall nearby. We were able to discuss the weather, and how it was very windy, which Eddie loved. These were all discussions he would have missed if he hadn’t experienced them.
In light of Eddie’s drastic growth for mobility this year, he recently was acknowledged in front of his whole school. He was given an Outstanding Effort Award and an Academic Excellence Award in orientation and mobility. At an assembly in front of the entire elementary, he walked to the front, greeted the principal, and accepted his award. Even though it took him at least three times as long as the other kids to walk up to the stage, the whole audience was patient, and applauded him greatly when he arrived.
Again, I am a witness to what can happen when we don’t put limits on our kids. If we decided to not give him opportunities based on safety, or concerns, or any type of low expectation, Eddie would not blossom. If we had given in, and accepted the wheelchair, he’d be using that right now instead of a simple white cane. It is frightening to think that every decision we as parents make can affect our children so much. I just hope every day that I make the right choice, and that Eddie will forgive me for a few blunders now and again, which are simply part of life.