Poof! How fast time flies. Unexpectedly he’s left his nursery, and he is in year three of school. Suddenly learning about personification…. I didn’t even know what that was. Let alone alliteration or omapiatoa?!
The older generation
People say kids grow up quickly and not miss a minute of it. I didn’t believe it at first, but now I can. Bringing my son home from the maternity ward, strapped nicely and safely on the back seat next to my wife, I am still in awe of the miracle I have witnessed.
Carrying him through the front door, still tucked cosily in the travel seat. We placed him softly down in the kitchen. The two cats that share our house crept in and investigated this bundle of strange smells and noise. It seemed strange to see that the cats are bigger. When I first held him in my arms, what seems like an age ago, yet it was only the previous morning, he seemed massive at 7lbs 1oz. My paraplegic balance was compromised. I needed to aid caution.
And the fun begins
Poo, wee, nappies, bottles, and all that adds to the fun of parenting. I’m a hands-on dad, and I lost count on the number of nappies I changed. I think I got peed on once. Luckily! I was lucky to take advantage of the paternity time off Fathers are allowed. Feeding, nappy changing, and comforting are pretty much continuous, as you may know. I didn’t feel it was fair to leave it all to my wife to be up for all the long sleepless nights. So I happily volunteered to get up in the darkness. I remember spending hours in the dead of night, just rocking the cot, whispering poems to help him sleep. He can’t still be hungry?!
The baby’s need to travel quicker in the crawling years was helped by using my lap. I could not hold him and propel my wheelchair. I can carry an item. Like a drink or plate of snacks, and move my wheelchair. However, it’s more challenging trying to do it with a small person on board.
I found there are two solutions to aid this. I could lift (said) child, so be balanced on my shoulder with his arms were hooked over my shoulder, and he looked behind me as we moved forward. This seemed to work OK around the house; I wouldn’t want to venture too far like this. The alternative was to sit him across one of my thighs with his back leaning against my chest. This worked well. I would confidently proceed around the house like this or leave the nursery, making my way to the car. He seemed to learn to balance quickly, and I can honestly say I never dropped him. He slipped and was caught but never dropped!
It feels like it took ages for the crawling to start and the standing to develop. After crawling is mastered, the telephone table used to act as a support bar. Like the way a ballerina holds on to the bar in front of the mirror in a dance studio or a drunk supporting himself against a fence trying to keep upright.
Climbing up the wooden sides and reaching for the pen and notepaper, available to allow jotted messages on during a call. After trying to eat the pen, he took a little step. Albeit a small one that resulted in a tumble, but it was a start.
Onto his feet
It’s hard work for me to get on and off the floor in a controlled, safe manner from my wheelchair. There is an extra risk of skin damage and injury if something goes wrong, so I tend to avoid doing this. On occasion, I’d feel pretty useless trying to engage with this young man, wobbling on two feet, trying to speak, and still investigating to see if everything is food! Yes, I would love to play trains, but sitting where I do it’s awkward setting up the track. So what should I do? Improvise, that’s what!
At first, I connect a few pieces of track. Then attempt to get them on the floor without coming apart. Success! Now we need to expand the track by working together. My job is to find allotted parts, pass to my young helper and give direction, in child language, to where the piece of track needs to be laid. After several attempts, there are several track pieces connected, and there is a continuous loop. The train is ready to depart from the make-believe station, which is not yet developed, but it is there in our imagination. Early in the game, the train travels round and round the track making tooting and chuffing noises. The Duplo bricks are in my hand, and the construction of the station starts.
Start with the building block of all narrative.
Brick by brick
The little red brick pieces connect nicely. The terminal building has a little door and a yellow-framed window on the side. As the locomotive trundles round the track, powered by a little hand, I lean forward to try and place the Railway Station Building carefully down, desperate not to drop it. Disaster occurs. One wall collapses inward, and all who use the waiting room will now feel an imaginary mighty draft.
Back to the drawing board, I think!
More development and growth
The walking process develops well, and it becomes easier than crawling. Now he’s up and about, and there are more games with fresh toys we can play with. Running about in the garden on a sunny day, he says the word I’ve been dreading. ‘Football’. I’m not too fond of it. Watching a crucial England game at Wembley or in the pub with mates works. But playing it, I’m not a fan. I have never been. And I can’t!
It stemmed from when I was younger; I didn’t get it. I’ll explain why. One lad, a year older than me, was good. At primary school age, whenever we played during a school PE lesson or down the park after school hours or for Wooburn Wasps, one of the village teams, there was little opportunity to learn the game. A game would go like this: player pass, pass again, this kid would get possession and dribble, dribble, dribble, pass everyone, keeping the ball to himself, shoot and score. When the ball was with the opposition, he would plough in with a tackle. Gaining ownership of the ball and charge off down the field, and a repeat would happen, resulting in another goal. He was like a team on his own!
I’ll go in goal
Not wanting to deprive my son of playing football, I volunteered to play as the goalkeeper. He knows my legs don’t work, and I will need to throw the ball. We mess about in the sunlight on the patch of moss-ridden grass in the garden. A few times, we have been down the park with cones to use as goalposts – I played the same position. It gets a bit monotonous, and before long, the game has come to a close, much to my relief!
We are lucky we have a pretty big patio, on which a 10ft basketball net sits in the corner, next to the pond. Now it’s game on! We race around, play pass and move, tackling and shooting. After a few baskets and both claiming to be in the lead, the ball splashes into the pond, and now this game has come to an end.
It is a nice feeling to be able to spend time with my son. Charging around doing whatever activity or imaginary role-play we’re in at the time. This provides entertainment for us both. I think I get as much exercise playing with him, as I do when using my wheelchair skills to push down the road!