Archive for February, 2010

A simple walk

I have been sorely remiss in my posting as has been noted by several people – including my wife who is much more Johnny-on-the-spot than I.  And you can apply her diligence in blog posting more generally to all things Smooch.  She is much, much better at keeping her focus on Captain Destructive than I am, having learned long ago that a quiet Smooch is trouble.  On Saturday I suffered a parental lapse while working on homework.  Nic was taking a shower and came out into our bedroom to find lotion smeared all over the dresser, the dog bed and our bed.  Aiden smelled unusually good, which was highly incriminating.  A classic ‘failure to parent’ on my part.  In some regards it’s like having a 8-week old puppy that never grows up.  Silence means something bad is happening – you just don’t know where – and you are definitely too late.

But the highlight of my weekend was my walk with Aiden on Sunday.  I was dreading taking the dogs out for a walk given how cold it was, but it was beautifully sunny and I had been neglecting the dogs so I figured I had to.  I started bundling up and got the ‘go out-hide?’ from Aiden.

And what was the response in my mind?: ‘Kid, you have got to be kidding me.  You can walk maybe half a block without assistance.  Maybe.  And you weigh 45 pounds.’  But he rarely asks to go outside in the wintertime and – after some gentle prodding from my wife – I said ‘Sure’.   The next exchange was fairly comical – though typical – of our day-to-day interactions:

‘Smooch if you want to go on a walk, you need socks, dude.  Can you go get a pair of socks?’
‘Mmmm, yes!’
<< runs off into living room and stops – not sure if he forgot where he was going or if he decided it was too hard >>
‘Smooch – can you go get your socks?’
‘Yep!’ << runs into laundry room and grabs his jacket >>
‘No, Aiden – socks, dude – we need socks’
<< walks up to me, puts his arms around my legs and looks up at me >>
‘Ummm, Dad?’
‘You want me to go grab your socks for you?’

About 20 minutes later (I exaggerate – only slightly) we’re ready to go. Thank goodness Owen volunteered to go along – I’m still not sure I could have handled both dogs and Aiden. We headed out, me holding Lexie’s leash and keeping tabs on Aiden while Owen walked Jackson. I figured we’d maybe go around the block.

But a funny thing happened as we started. For one, Aiden seemed to have better stamina than usual. In general, he’s much steadier in boots so he was covering a lot of ground and not falling much. He was also highly motivated as he was grabbing snow chunks and chucking them at the back of my legs – which involved him stopping, trying to pry and iceball out of the snowbank, and then giggling furiously as he “snuck” up on me and pelted me with the ice.

We went about two blocks with that particular motivation moving Smooch along. We got to a dirt trail by our house and Owen and I turned the dogs loose. Aiden took Lexie’s dog leash because he wanted to hold onto it. He would stop, whip the bejeezus out of the snowbank with the leash every so often (don’t ask – I couldn’t explain it if you did) and then move down the trail. We didn’t rush. We just waited for Aiden to come along (Owen had the patience of a saint). He didn’t have his glasses on (he hasn’t been as photo-sensitive – nor does he seem to struggle in bright sunlight) and his blue eyes were sparkling. Snot was running down his face. And I realized that I almost never see him like this. His outside time has generally been limited because of the photo sensitivity and because his outside time usually leads to him getting wound up and having seizure activity. But not Sunday. He was outside, under his own power, walking, exploring the world, feeling the sun and the cold on his face. He was loving every minute of it. And I realized if I had succumbed to the desire to rush through my walk I would have missed all of this.

He probably made it about half a mile on his own, walking Lexie for part of it (I can assure you that her memories of Sunday are not nearly as fond – I think she would bite the guy who named her harness a ‘gentle leader’ – but she was sweet and patient with Aiden). Once we got back to the neighborhood I decided to carry Aiden – mainly because he started bailing on the sidewalk and trying to climb up the snowbanks into people’s yards, giggling furiously the whole time.

He surprised me. He did something I did not think he was capable of, which is one of the really hard things to learn as a parent of a kid with special needs. You want to protect them and not push them too hard, and I’ve always thought I did a good job balancing it all out, but I was clearly wrong this time. It makes me wonder what else he can do that I haven’t been smart enough or patient enough to figure out yet.

I wish I had a picture of him out on the trail but I will never forget the look of that smiling, snot-faced little boy, perfectly contented with a bright, cold, Minnesota winter day.


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