March 12, 2009

Gearing up for the big Eleven!

Tomorrow is Hannah's birthday, and she is getting very excited. I think that she's learned more about the calendar this week than in her entire life!

Packages from grandparents have been arriving, party favors purchased, cake decisions made, restaurant chosen, and grins abound! I still have to wrap presents and get a few ingredients for the cake. And come up with some back-up activities/games for the party on Saturday. She is expecting nine friends to come.

This year Hannah wanted a sports party. I've mentioned before that she is my only child who is interested in organized sports. She doesn't like to watch sports on TV, she likes to play them. She currently takes a dance movement class and swimming lessons. But soon both baseball and soccer season begins and she's been chomping at the bit. So, for the party, we've rented an indoor sports facility (good thing, cold rain expected here); kickball, soccer, relay games, Moonbounce, etc. will be on the agenda for the Saturday. I'm one of those moms who always has parties at home. I think we had one other party out of the house, because we had new carpet laid and the house was for sale. It's strange not having to plan. It sort of doesn't feel like a party. Or at least, it doesn't feel like one of our parties (less work for Mom!!). But Hannah will enjoy this very much.

The weird part about sports and Hannah is that she is not particularly well coordinated. Yet she is better at baseball than I am (which isn't saying much...when she is clumsy I often say she comes by it genetically, and I mean from my gene pool, not her bonus gene pool!). She LOVES to play in the yard with James (he's the designated sports parent, primarily because he does know how to throw, catch and kick, unlike the rest of us).

I can easily say that gross motor skills are not her strength. She comes from a long lineage of uncoordinated people (on the maternal side). She still marks time going down stairs (taking one step at a time rather than alternating feet). She cannot carry much up stairs because she needs one hand to hold on to the railing for stability. She has orthotic inserts in her shoes (no more AFOs!) which help her keep her pronated feet aligned. Her right side has always been weaker than her left (when she was a young baby she rarely used her right arm and her head was always flopped to the right, since the muscles on the right side of her neck were weaker). We worked hard with physical therapy to balance her out, and if you don't look too closely, you'd never really notice anything, other than she's physically slower than most kids.

When she was about three years old we stopped Physical Therapy (PT). We wanted to focus more on her speech and cognition. When she was five years old she had a set of evaluations (gross motor, fine motor, cognitive testing, etc). So she had not had PT for a couple of years. Now, any parent of a child with a developmental disability will tell you that even though tests don't truly measure important things (like how funny or compassionate or hardworking or full of love an individual is), sometimes the scores really feel like a kick in the stomach. We know that "it's just a snapshot" and "it's a new testing environment"; we know all the excuses. But it still is a difficult time when the statistics say that your bright, delightful, charming five year-old child has the physical skills of a 20 month old. Or fine motor skills similar to a 2 year old. Or two years behind on speech, or whatever the scores of the day reveal. They can knock you down.

But, this time, when the results came back that low, I really didn't care. I saw what skills they tested, and I saw how miserably she failed. No, she could not jump with both feet 3 inches off the ground. No, she did not know how to throw a ball underhand 6 feet and hit a target. No, she could not walk on a floor level balance beam or strip of tape. But I discovered that I didn't give a hoot (actually, I think my words were more along the lines of not giving a "rat's @#$"). None of it was relevant to who Hannah was, or who she would or could become. I knew that her lack of aptitude for jumping would not determine what kind of job she would get as an adult. I knew that she would not need to throw a ball a certain distance to take public transportation to get to church or a friend's house. I knew that she would not be required to walk on a strip of tape when she shopped for her own groceries. Really, none of it mattered at all.

What we're after for Hannah is meaningful relationships (with God, family, neighbors, friends, sweethearts, spouse, who knows? Why not?), as much independence as possible, fulfillment in her chosen career, and a feeling of belonging to a community. That's what we want for each of our children.

Hannah has no idea of her challenges. As far as I can tell, she has a pretty good self-image. She thinks she's a terrific swimmer, a good baseball player, a capable soccer student. She is motivated. She's got a better attitude than I do most days. Well. Maybe not, depending on the tasks of the day. But she's willing to do the work. And there is no test that measures enthusaism.
So we leave the First Decade of Hannah, and enter into more adventures, more friends, more opportunities to jump higher than we did before, in a Moonbounce. I'm sure she can get 3 inches off the moon.


Dustin and Kelly said...

Happy Birthday Hannah! It sounds like it is going to be a wonderful and memorable day!

Beth - I don't think you could have said any of it better. As a matter of fact, I've come to realize lately that, though I want to see Landon walk, run and play I know he will get there. And I know that he doesn't have to do all of that as the milestone charts dictate because he will do it eventually. And when he is 20, it isn't going to matter at what age he crawled, walked, etc. I am, however, really beginning to focus on the oral motor development aspect more. His ability to speak and communicate with others are very imperative to me and his ability to be independent. You post reminded me of something I read on The link to it is:

exnyers said...

beth, what a sweet and beautiful tribute to hannah's first decade! she's a cool kid and i'm sure she'll continue to kick @$$ in her 2nd decade and all those to follow.
enjoy your special day!! :)

Loren Stow said...

Happy Birthday to Hannah!!
I just laughed at your post because I was imagining a world where it would be compulsory to to 'walk along the taped line' with your basket full of groceries to the get to the counter!! LOL!
On a serious note though - your words are wonderful! I read them as a mom to a 7-month-old. Still a long way to go, but with much hope and enthusiasm!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Hannah!!
Wish we could be there for the Big Party.
I loved your post. As always it was right on the mark. Jacob tested last summer as 4.5 yo and he can run, hike, shoot baskets, swim, etc. Just don't ask him to walk on that line!! Although he might do it, if his cereal depended on it....


rx said...

well said and written, dear one. what a legacy and blessing you are giving hannah, and chris and kate. love you!