Not long ago, I saw a blog carnival whose topic was “firsts.”
Participating bloggers wrote about the first time they lived away from home, their first loves, and first kisses. As I contemplated this topic, I thought of my kids’ firsts, moments that are near and dear to my heart.
All moms remember their kids’ firsts, right? First word, first step, first day of school. Each of these moments is special to a mother; she marks the milestone in her heart, cherishing it.
My firstborn had great difficulty with many of his firsts. He walked and crawled mostly on schedule, but talking took so much longer. Each word he learned took hours of painstaking instruction and repetition. Because Danny has Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism, there are many struggles he has that other kids don’t. He’s not mentally impaired, but has several processing problems which makes things, like formulating sentences, extra hard for him. So many skills that come naturally for most kids take practice and therapy for Danny to learn.
Because of these difficulties, each time Danny reached a milestones it was like a small, precious miracle to me. And this is probably the reason why some of the “firsts” that I cherish are not the typical ones you would find in a baby book.
~~First time he left the public pool without having a meltdown
The summer when Danny was almost three, we bought a pass to our public pool. Dan absolutely loved the water, but hated when we had to get out for the scheduled life guard breaks. And heaven forbid we actually left the pool to go home. The kid screamed and flailed so much that I was scared I’d be reported for kidnapping. Add to that the fact that I was about 6 months pregnant with Charlotte and I almost decided to quit going to the pool altogether. Instead, we made up our very first picture schedule illustrating all the steps we needed to take to get to the pool. We added in pictures representing breaks and leaving, and we showed Danny that if he cooperated when we left, he would be rewarded with a Baby Einstein video. Within a week, Danny was leaving the pool with nary a complaint, and I was practically weeping with relief. This was not just the first time Danny left the pool without a meltdown. It was also the first time we were able to successfully communicate and correct a behavior problem. I can’t tell you how hopeful that made me.
~~First time he told me he was thirsty
Like I said, Danny took a long time to start talking. Even once he did learn some words, it took him a remarkably long time to communicate certain needs. Bil and I looked at each other in astonishment when Danny told me he was thirsty for the first time.
~~First real conversation with Danny
When Danny was 4, I went on a field trip with his class. That night, I snuggled in bed with Danny and started talking about the trip to the farm. Before this incident, Danny would just listen to me as I talked; it wasn’t ever much of an interaction. If he interjected anything, it was most often off topic.
This night was different, though. Danny actually talked to me about the peacocks and corrected me when I said we saw three of them. Then, he talked a bit about the ducklings, his favorite part of the field trip. I had so much fun on that trip with Danny, but my favorite part was talking to him in his bed. Getting a glimpse into his thoughts and feelings was miraculous. And it left me feeling hopeful that someday I would have a full-fledged conversation with my son.
~~ The first time he initiated imaginative play all on his own
Like most kids on the spectrum, Danny wasn’t very adept at imaginative play. It was a skill we worked on with him at home and at preschool. He improved, but it was still not something Danny would do on his own. The day that he decided to pretend he was at the beach was magical for me. I remember how he got his sister to jump off the bed into “the water” and pretend to swim. He even pretended to splash me and he wiped pretend water from his eyes. After swimming, Danny decided we would have a picnic on the beach. He spread his blanket out and served me and his sister up a glorious meal of imaginary watermelon, popcorn and juice boxes. No trip to a Hawaiian beach could have made me happier!
Other less dramatic, but no less exciting milestones:
~~The first time Danny snuggled with me on his own
~~The first time he told me he loved me
~~The first time he ate a grilled cheese sandwich and a hamburger
~~The first time Danny let us cut his hair with the clippers (last week!)
~~The first time he was able ride a bike with no training wheels (last month!)
I hate that Danny has to work and struggle so much in order to master many skills. I wish I could make it all easier for him. But if there is one blessing that comes from these struggles it’s that I don’t take any of his accomplishments for granted.
What about you? What milestones do you hold near and dear to your heart?