The month of March is hastily coming to a close and you may be overtly celebrating the snow melting, some beautiful crocuses popping out with the first punches of color against an otherwise dull landscape or even a warmer breeze. I on the other hand have been quietly observing a lesser known fact about March – Cerebral Palsy Awareness.
March, each year in the United States, perhaps around the world (sorry I’m still so new I don’t know) is Cerebral Pasly Awareness month, where those who love someone with CP, or who have CP take an extra effort to let others know of this neurological condition. So I want to do my part, but not just by sharing facts, since my little boy is so much more than a bundle of facts, to my family and myself.
To get us started, here are some things you may not know about CP:
- It’s a static, non-progressive neurological condition.
- The severity ranges from complete immobility to mobile, with minimal impact, and varying amounts of complications.
- CP is a blanket term for brain damage.
- No one knows, definitively, why most children are born with CP.
- I listed resources here for more information.
What you may also not know is that my son, J. at 2 1/2 years old is the most motivated, determined person I have ever met. He started to stand on his own around 8 months, and was crawling by 11. He started to try to walk around 13 months and was talking by around then as well. He shouldn’t technically have done all that as early as he did, but he did it because he made it happen, despite his mild CP. He did all this as though he hardly even noticed and he has taught me more about motivation (and patience) than I ever could have imagined.
There are days we are at the park and other parents quietly stare at my boy grunting and groaning his way up steps that their kids clear with ease and my heart sinks a bit, but he doesn’t notice. He pushes right on by, heading for the slide at the top, their kids calling him forward to join them. Always a smile on his face, he runs after those kids who are much younger than he, and he falls. They stand by watching and he gets back up, goes on, only to fall 5-6 more times before reaching them. Then he does it again. We go out to stores and his pant legs ride up, revealing his AFO’s, and people stare, wondering at first what they are and then cautioning their kids to “be extra careful” like my little guy is glass that could break. He won’t, and I smile at them to reassure to no avail, but J. hardly takes notice of the exchange, and runs after them as if to say “see – I can, so don’t doubt so much!”
We wake up every morning, watch Curious George as we put his AFO’s on, do stretches, massages, activities and therapy sessions. He goes through it all with a wonderment and ease that almost makes me feel guilty for not approaching my life the same way. He has every right, as he becomes more aware, to get frustrated and discouraged about what he faces, but I don’t think he ever will. Not everyday will be sunny and filled with happy achievements, but that’s part of the package. So sure there will be days, but this 2 year old of mine will bounce right on by, hardly noticing, if I don’t either.
J. has taught me a lot about CP, about determination, his drive to “do it myself” and stick with something. I think it’s the key for us as a family and for helping him to reach his best self. You see, while he works hard everyday for every breath to speak and every step he takes, I work just as hard to encourage and support him, so no one will doubt him, least of all himself.
So that he’ll hardly even notice.