Life is not a spectator sport

Lonely Spectator
photo taken by Nandakumar Subramaniam

My youngest son was late with all of his motor development milestones: crawling, sitting upright, even rolling over. When he was late walking, we just assumed he just wasn’t ready and was taking his time. It was par for the course with him. We joked that he was a lazy bum. We were concerned, but not worried.

During one of his pediatric check-ups, around the one year old mark, I repeated that same joke in the doctor’s hearing. Unlike me, he didn’t find it nearly as funny, especially not after taking a longer view at my son’s development charts. Within minutes I had a referral in hand to see a physical therapist.

I would have liked to have said that I scheduled the appointment with the therapist the same day. Instead, I placed the note to the side of my desk and continued on as I had before. I convinced myself that if I just gave my son another day, he would suddenly master the skill all on his own. My son was perfectly healthy. Every kid and every kid’s development is different. There was nothing to worry about.

A month passed with no progress. When I finally gave in and dialed the therapist’s number, it felt like I was admitting defeat, as if I was giving up on my child, but I decided a second opinion couldn’t hurt. Ever positive, I told myself that the therapist would examine him and tell me that he just needed more time. We would only be out the cost of an office visit. No big deal.

It didn’t happen that way. Instead we were told that our son has a condition known as hypermobility and low muscle tone. What this means is that due to additional extreme flexibility in his joints, he is going to have to work at least twice as hard as any other kid to do anything requiring movement. Any movement. This pronouncement was a little hard to take. Yes, she could have told us that the cause for his delayed development was something much scarier, but it’s not easy to hear that your baby is in some way flawed (on paper), no matter the diagnosis.

Lending a helping hand
Image by Kristina Alexanderson

We started seeing the therapist weekly. It was as if he had just been in need of the proper key to unlock all the secrets of the world. Never satisfied with his current status, she forced him to build another skill on each small accomplishment. With her help, he began crawling without dragging his body on the floor. Then he began pulling himself up-right and taking tentative first steps and walking at eighteen months. We wanted to throw a parade with each milestone. Instead, his therapist merely moved on to the next skill.

Now, a year later, he is now running, climbing, and otherwise finding ways to turn my brown hair grey. He is now practically caught up with others his age, and is no longer in weekly therapy. Yes, he tends to tire more quickly than others, but you wouldn’t know it watching him chase after his brother with a big smile on his face.

I don’t have many regrets, but not scheduling that first appointment sooner is right up there.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that there might be a problem and so I ignored the nagging voice telling me that something wasn’t right. I thought that time itself was enough to mend all things. I thought everything would work itself out, and everyone would be happy if I just left well enough alone.

I’ve never been so wrong.

Image by Blake Danger Bentley

Watching the final games of the World Cup play out and reflecting upon what I was doing a year ago, I have to acknowledge that I wasn’t a coach or a leader back then. At least not at home. I was too far in denial. Yes, I was creating a vision of a brighter future for my family, but I wasn’t setting a course for how we would get there. “Wait and See” is a tactic, not a strategy. Nor was I providing my son with the tools he needed to learn on his own.

I wasn’t a supporting teammate either. Followers like these may not set the game plan, but at least they actively participate in executing on the win. No, I was only a spectator. I was hoping for the best, cheering from the sidelines, but my passive watching and waiting was never going to score points in life’s big game.

A year ago, my son’s potential was untapped. But luckily it didn’t have to stay that way. All we had to do to get us both back into the game was to make that first call.

2 thoughts on “Life is not a spectator sport

  1. I’m starting to feel this same way about Lily’s lack of verbal development. She had been saying some things here or there, but suddenly, that seems to have all but fallen by the wayside… I think it’s time to get her skills evaluated by someone with far more training than me, but I’m scared, you know? I know you wrote your post years ago, but it just might contain the push I need–for Lily.


    1. I am grateful everyday that I made that call. I kick myself everyday for not making that call sooner. I knew deep down that something wasn’t quite right and I wasted so much time convincing myself my gut was wrong. In Lily’s case it could be nothing more than excessive ear wax or a charmingly obstinate personality, but it rarely hurts to ask for an impartial opinion. Best case – they find nothing and you can amuse your friends with stories of parentnoia later.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.