Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Human Will

Today I got a lesson from my little boy in the power of sheer human will. He's recently been diagnosed with a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder. On the surface, he just looks clumsy and sort of odd. He runs with a weird gait, he can't catch a ball or throw a ball and he holds his body in a way that just seems...off, somehow. He responds oddly to some noises but others- loud ones- seem calming. I remember holding him as a baby and thinking that there was something not quite right but I just couldn't put my finger on it. First I thought Autism (my most powerful fear while I was pregnant). Then Aspergers. Then his preschool teacher threw out the idea of something called Sensory Integration Disorder, but that wasn't quite it.

Then he discovered numbers and we discovered that he was gifted- really gifted, which is not so much a gift as a new set of challenges balanced by a freaky smartness where numbers are concerned. We thought maybe this was part of that. It wasn't. Finally we discovered DCD and it felt like my 8 year old suspicions had finally been validated- but the victory was awful, hollow. This thing wasn't in my overactive imagination. I wasn't just being paranoid. This thing was real and it was holding him back.

We suddenly found ourselves in The System.

After a year of in-school services (and a startling realization that we had been expected to arrange private clinical support even though no one ever mentioned it to us), we hooked up with a lovely woman I'll call Miss M. She's our new PT/OT and she's amazing and funny and kind and energetic.

We're so lucky to have her. And today, watching her work with little boy, I wanted to cry.

She knew just what to say and do to make his disabilities oh-so-obvious. He can't hop on one foot really. He can't do jumping jacks. He can't process what he hears half the time. He gets nervous and jumpy and that makes it worse.

Watching him struggle and sweat and work with her to do things that other kids find simple- like run and jump and hop and climb- made me want to cry and scream and rail against whatever deity it is that decided my sweet boy shouldn't be like other kids. That this would be his thing to manage.

It's not fair.

He doesn't have any illusions, I don't think, about the ways that he falls short in comparison to his peers. He knows that he's a freaking math genius and that he reads better than most kids his age and I guess, for him, those things balance out the ways he struggles. For me, though, the daughter of a coach raised to see boys as the sum of their athletic ability, it doesn't quite balance out. He wants to play baseball. I want him to be able to play baseball. And soccer and basketball and whatever else he wants to play.

Like I said- it's not fair.

But fair or not fair doesn't seem to matter so much to him. With Miss M's help, he saw all of it as a game. He knows some of why we go to her gym once a week- and why we'll go there for at least another year, probably more than once a week when we can manage it. He knows he has to get strong if he wants to keep up with his friends when they play games. He doesn't fully comprehend how far behind he is or how far and hard the road to "caught up" is going to be, but he has eyes and he's smart- he sees the difference.

So today he giggled and sweated and strained and pushed and he tried again and again and again for the longest hour of my mommy life since transition.

Then he asked if we could go back tomorrow. Right now, he's doing the exercises he learned today, in spite of the fact that he's exhausted. My little boy is a force of nature and he's going to beat this thing by pure force of human will if that's what it takes.

And that's really badass.


  1. Sounds like the badass doesn't fall far from the tree.....or something like that. He's an amazing kid, and you are an amazing mom. Good luck on this journey and glad you've found such a great ally in Miss M.

    Lisa in Austin

  2. Laura,

    This is just beauiful. My heart goes out to you.