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The Gift of Frustration

What a difference two weeks makes. The last time Simon was evaluated by a therapist, he didn’t walk behind a wagon well, didn’t crawl well, and didn’t climb stairs at all. Today, he was evaluated again, this time by the physical therapist assigned to his case. Only instead of hearing about his underdeveloped upper body and unsteady gait, this morning I kept hearing things like, “Oh, he walks really well,” “I love the way he turns the wagon around,” and “Look at him climb those stairs!”

Today’s assessment concluded with the message that Simon can walk on his own, he’s just too insecure and fearful (or stubborn) to do so.

Our appointment today coincides with Simon’s 19-month birthday, an occasion we are going to mark with the gifts of a step-stool, a large ball, window forms, perhaps an easel, and certainly a meaty dose of frustration to be meted out daily.

Amy’s message to me was clear: So long as Simon can do all he wants by scooting around on his butt, he’s unlikely to let go and walk. That means we need to have fewer floor toys, more standing toys, and much more walking as part of our daily routine. I don’t have to frustrate him 24 hours a day; in fact, that might backfire, but I do have to choose regular times to frustrate him and encourage walking.

It looks like my weekend has been planned. I need two step-stools to put in front of our sinks, so Simon can begin to walk and stand to have his hands and face cleaned after meals and to brush his teeth at night. Window forms, a ball, and an easel will give us more to do standing up in our living room and the nursery, and if it ever stops raining, we’ll resume our daily trips to the park and regular play at the water table.

Meanwhile, floor toys need to be confiscated and/or set at a higher level. And during designated times of the day, if Simon won’t stand, walk, or cruise to get something he wants, I can’t allow him to have it. I don’t have to let him throw a fit; I just have to take him into a different room to play with something else so he doesn’t learn to manipulate me by fussing.

The good news is/was that we are doing many things right after since our appointment with Beth two weeks ago. Having Simon walk behind push toys has paid off, encouraging him to play on the stairs is paying off, and we’re doing a good job of praising him to the hilt for every step he takes and not making a big deal of the inevitable falls that come his way. Now it’s simply time to step up our game.

Amusingly, when I got a full look at Simon’s assessment data I learned that he is firmly ahead of the average in one and only one arena: social development. I don’t have the report yet, but Amy decided to look this up when Simon put the moves on her and then had his baby bunny stuffed animal kiss the frog stuffed animal we call Super Speedy as a diversionary tactic. Amy smiled knowingly when she saw this data and warned me not to let Simon charm me into backing off the walking exercises.

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