I read a post on Love That Max recently where the mom wrote she will never get tired of hearing her son talk, because it was something they didn’t know if he would ever do. Those hard-won milestones are never to be taken for granted. For Max, the hard-won milestone was talking. For Gracie, it’s walking.
Gracie didn’t make any of her gross motor milestones on time but she was really delayed with walking. We were not sure she would ever learn to walk, and certainly not unassisted. But she did. She first learned to walk unassisted during the year she was 3, thanks in large part to the help she received at her old school. The hallways were wide and clear, the surfaces were smooth and hard, and there were always helpers at arm’s length. These things, combined with regular use of her walker, helped her learn to walk. She had to learn by doing because she could not learn by feeling.
Gracie does not have that inherent balance the rest of us have. When she’s standing still, she wobbles. She can’t feel her feet at all, so it makes sense that it would be hard for her to trust that they’re on the ground. (Indeed, oftentimes they are not—she is the queen of rolling her ankles.) Plus, since she doesn’t have peripheral vision, she doesn’t have that visual cue when her feet are planted. Little babies just learning to stand have better balance than Gracie. The medical term for Gracie’s lack of balance is ataxia, which in the vernacular is loosely defined as walking as if you’re drunk. Due to her lack of balance, it’s actually easier for Gracie to walk than to stand still, and it’s not that easy for her to walk.
When I see little babies walking around, my heart aches a little. Gracie will never have that. Gracie will never be that stable and coordinated. She will never have the balance that the rest of us have inherently. But what Gracie has is so, so special. Gracie has hard-won skills that required determination and much, much more effort than they require from the rest of us. She will never pitter patter, but I will never get tired of hearing her feet stomp down the hallway. That STOMP STOMP STOMP is a beautiful sound.