Lina has taken a couple independent steps several times over the last few days. I feel like she keeps teetering on the brink of really taking off. Her physical therapist sent us home with a walker this week so she can keep practicing and improving her strength and confidence. She’s a pro at standing independently, but the therapist thinks it’s just a matter of that extra bit of strength and confidence to balance on one foot as she steps forward. She has a great foundation of good technique and all that bilateral crawling is actually fantastic for brain development.
Lina is in an interesting in-between stage right now. She’s not really a baby, but because she isn’t walking yet, it doesn’t seem quite right to call her a toddler. Her receptive language in particular is improving, and there are small gains with her expressive, though her therapist thinks that is taking a back seat as she focuses on gross motor. (Just one more reason we’d really like to get that girl walking!) Her play is changing significantly, which her therapists credit to her time with typical peers at Mother’s Day Out. She engages in more focused and pretend play with toys, rather than just exploring them and then throwing them aside (although she still does that some, too). She might pretend to feed me and herself with her baby’s bottle, or spend more time actually driving a car around on the floor, or maybe put people in the proper spots inside the bus. She might be able to focus long enough to put shapes in the proper spots in a shape sorter. We still haven’t gotten much traction with puzzles, and attention span can still be a challenge at story time, though she usually will sit through her favorite books at least once.
We’ve also been experiencing a big recurrence of hair pulling. She’d been doing much better until Thanksgiving, when the house was full of unfamiliar people and constant noise, and my poor little 22-month-old nephew was right at her level with his tempting locks (regrettably now much thinner than they were). The overstimulation set Lina back a long way on this one, and her Mother’s Day Out teacher reported that she terrorized everyone in reach on her first day back post-holiday. Here our tender scalps were just recovering… Back to the slow, steady “redirect and reinforce” approach.
Her sense of humor keeps growing, as does her desire to imitate. She can express herself loudly, especially when she’s frustrated. She loves to use song motions to communicate. For example, she points to her face for happy, as in, “If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.” We also get a lot of the round and round motion for the wheels on the bus, and the occasional itsy, bitsy spider thrown in for fun.
I’m not going to lie: her slower pace of progress can be very frustrating. My arms can testify to the challenges of lugging around a two-year-old (albeit a small one). Inside our little family, we celebrate each step, each sign of progress, each little milestone and feel gratitude and pride in her achievements. It gets harder when we’re in public and strangers ask her age; I brace myself before responding, knowing they are expecting a child much younger. It gets harder when she’s side-by-side with her peers and obviously not at their level. It gets harder in the little kids’ class at church, where managing her short attention span, toy throwing and hair pulling demands every ounce of energy I have.
I was thinking about this the other day as we were driving home from an outing, and I felt an almost overwhelming urge to rush her home, hold her close and never leave the house again. I suppose every parent experiences the urge to shield their children from the harsh realities of the world, but I find that to be magnified with Lina. I know it’s an urge I will have to fight her whole life, as I encourage her to take those baby steps to each new milestone, out into a world that will not always greet her with the love and understanding she finds at home. It pierces my heart to know someone might even be thinking something unkind about her. I can hardly stand to contemplate the jeers and misunderstanding she may encounter as she grows and ventures out from the nest.
But just like with Corin and with every parent and child, it’s my job to equip her for that big, wide world. I know full well that sheltering Lina at home would do a tremendous disservice, to her and to the world she will enrich. She needs my full-voiced support urging her forward, giving her the confidence for each of those steps forward. Our family will always be a safe haven, but it has to be a launching pad, not a hideout. The trick is to find ways to work now to make the world the place I want it to be for her. I suppose that’s why I keep writing and posting pictures here.
For now, when parents ask if she’s walking, I smile and say, “She’s working very hard on it.” When other kids her age race by her, I am thankful she has them to imitate. When she won’t stay on the blanket at story time, I sit with her, knowing she learns through constant practice. As I exercise patience and cheer Lina’s baby steps now, I know each one is a tiny step toward the future we dream of for her.