It was nearly 8AM and my son was busting at the seams. The dog was wagging around picking up on his energy. A quick glance out the window and I could tell it was not frigid cold. The trees barely swayed indicating the lack of wind, and no frost had accumulated on the ground. My weather app showed it to be 29 degrees; downright balmy for this time of year.
“How about taking Woody for a field walk, Wil?” Woody was definitely on board. Hearing the word “walk” he did a little jump and his tail went into hyper-sonic mode.
“Yes!” Wil said and ran off to pick out which hat he would wear. Always the most important accessory, according to him. Wil chose his warm Red Wings hat signed by Luke Glendening. We zipped up coats, pulled on gloves and boots, and still in pjs underneath, we flew out the back door.
Woody ran ahead with his head down sniffing all the animal scents along the way. Wil and I made our way down the flattened part of the field.
“Dad cut this part.” he said.
“Yes, he did back in the fall. Now that it’s winter, the grass doesn’t grow so he doesn’t have to cut it. Feel the frozen parts under your feet?” He responded by making big stomps on the ground. As Wil has Down syndrome, and it has taken him time to learn to talk, and to express his emotions, I truly enjoy listening to his thoughts. Each word of a sentence is like a little gift.
Woody cut over to the adjoining field so we cut across the brush to follow him. In that area is a big pile of large tree limbs that was used by the county to divide our property from the county’s. Wil wanted to climb the branches so we stopped there. He put his leg up on the branch and tried to hoist himself up.
“Uh! I caaaaaaaaaan do it!” he said as he pulled with his arms on a higher tree limb and pushed down with his foot. He pulled and pushed and then he plopped down on the ground.
“Uh! That is hard work!”
“It is, try again and I can help you just a little.” We tried again and he made it up on the first limb. The height scared him and he immediately asked to come back down.
“Let’s walk, Mom.”
So off we went until we came to some of the trees his sisters like to climb. He made the same attempt there with the same results. I tried again to help him by pushing up on his leg, but as soon as he reached the bottom branch of the tree he became scared of the height and asked me to stop and let him down. He sees the things his sisters do and wants to do them so badly. He watches his sisters climb trees and jump off the dock to swim at my parent’s lake. One time at the lake he did not have his swim suit, and my mom gave him one of sister’s just so he would have something on. He was so excited as he thought it would magically make him swim like his sister, Katherine. Wil ran out to the dock full of energy and hope. As soon as he reached the dock, he realized that the powers he had imagined had vanished.
These experiences give me a twinge of sadness for him. But that doesn’t last long because Wil doesn’t stay in that place like I do. Wil has already moved on. When he realized Katherine’s suit lost its powers, he went down the steps of the dock into the shallow part of the lake, right next to the seawall that he can grab hold of when the waves come in from a boat. He splashes, laughs, stands on one leg and says, “Look at me Mom!” I wave back and smile, and say, “Wow! Great balancing, buddy!”
So today after his tree climbing attempt, though I’m sure he felt disappointment, he didn’t linger in those emotions. He was already off in search of the biggest branches that had fallen to the ground. He struck gold. He lifted it up, grunting to exaggerate it’s weight. He held it up proudly and said, “Mom, look!”
“Wow, that is huge! Look how strong you are!” And soon he dropped that one and went in search of another. This fun adventure went on for the next half hour.
I watched as he crouched down, lifted up yet another branch to show me, then he dropped it and quickly searched for another. I thought of his low muscle tone and how beneficial this was to him. Not to mention all the sensory input. Oh, that special needs mom brain is always kicking in!
But it wasn’t just Wil benefitting, I was too. I breathed in the fresh, crisp air and enjoyed this moment for what it was; simple, beautiful, perfect. There is little that compares to the gifts nature gives by purely being what it is.
As far as Wil has come, I realized how far I have come right along with him. This road to acceptance is not a point to point destination. It’s a continuous road. Sure I can say I accept Down syndrome fully, but it’s not that simple. If acceptance is accepting a person completely as they are, then it can not be a static thing. We are always evolving, so our level of acceptance must be too.
Today when I felt a pang of sadness for Wil when he could not climb the tree like his sisters, I won’t see it the same way next tomorrow. We will both have moved on to a new adventure and we will again circle back to that tree for another attempt but at a different level. Each time he will be a step closer. One of these days he will climb that tree, and we will celebrate it all the more for the adventure it took to get there. And with each attempt I will have learned something new right along with him.
As Wil hoisted up the biggest branch yet, he exaggeratedly grunted and then giggled as he wobbled from foot to foot showing off his latest find.
“Take a picture of this one, Mom!” It was barely 9AM and we already were experiencing the greatest of adventures right in our very own back yard.