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First of all, thank you all for the overwhelming response on my post Pursuit of Happyness (it was my first ever post). It was just the first step in my struggle to face this world with a special needs child. From thereon, there have been several moments where I have fallen down – but only to rise again with more courage and even more strength.
Cheri had already turned 2 but did not walk yet. Being a Downs child, his muscle tone is really low which made it harder for his tiny legs to support his weight. He had started to stand up holding furniture after much practice, exercises and massages. I would constantly motivate him to walk. I would keep his favorite toy on the chair/sofa thinking he will stand up and try to move to grab it. He would instead start crying till I gave the toy in his hand. I would give him his push toy but he would start playing with it sitting rather than trying to stand and push it. I made sure he was getting his exercise and massages in time. My sole purpose of existence was as if to make him walk. The harder I tried, the more reluctant he was becoming. My aggression was doing him no good and eventually I slowed down realizing that although he is physically ready, he is not mentally ready yet.
Children surprise us all the time. And so did Cheri in a few days. As I was doing the mundane household jobs he went near his push-toy, slowly stood up holding it and started pushing it. He took a few steps and sat down. My happiness knew no bounds. I quickly hugged him and kissed him. He was very happy – his eyes twinkle very differently when he knows he has achieved something big that made Mumma so happy and proud. He laughed and clapped. I brought the push toy in front of him again and encouraged him to walk. And he did – he walked across the entire room! I quickly captured those memories with a video on my phone for my husband to come home and see. We were both elated! It was now Cheri’s most favorite game.
A few days later, I was packing rakhis to send to my brother. Cheri came near the bed and stood up to see what I was doing. I always thought his favourite toys would motivate him to walk. Never did I imagine that a small shiny thread would rouse his curiosity so much that he would take 4 independent steps from the bed to the table. “He walked today – all by himself! No support at all.” I was on cloud nine. I called up everyone – my husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my sister, his sister, my best friend – basically everyone who would be as happy as I was to hear this news.
After a few days of practicing walking by holding my fingers, he was now ready to walk independently. And it was time to get him ‘real’ shoes and do some outdoor walking. Since he was about 6 months I used to take him to a nearby garden everyday. Today also we came to the same garden – but today there was no pram! His noisy ‘puch-puch’ shoes attracted much attention. But I was least bothered. He was enjoying the attention and quite enjoying the walk. Mission Accomplished.
“Ohh, isn't he 2 already? Doesn’t he walk yet?” enquired a neighbourhood aunty. I smiled and politely explained that he has just started walking. Everyday I would take him to the garden and everyday someone or other would have something to say.
“Why don’t you massage his legs with badam oil? Its very beneficial.”
“Take him to so-and-so doctor - he is supposed to be really good.”
“Of course, he was always in pram. How would he ever learn to walk?”
“Ohh, so you are working from home. No wonder you can’t give that much time for the child.”
“A 2 year old should run and play. Doesn't he walk yet?”
With each passing day, comments started getting harsher and bitter. I could not take it anymore. I came back home and cried my heart out. I will never ever take him to the garden now. What do these ladies think? They think I am not giving enough time to my child? Or not doing enough for him? Do they know that he is walking today because of all the exercise and massages that I have been diligently doing, come what may. Who are they to judge me anyway? “Exactly! Why are you getting bothered by people you don’t care about. Besides, who knows that badam oil might actually do some wonders for Cheri.” – said my husband.
Ohh yes, how stupid of me! If I don’t take him to the garden, it will not change anything in the lives of these people. But for Cheri, it would be a huge loss. And since then, I have implanted an invisible filter in my mind – to absorb only the useful information and throw away all the garbage before it reaches the heart.
And so, there we were next day, ready to face the world – mom and son, hand in hand, walking together in glory, with a sense of pride and a little puch-puch !