Have you ever watched something happen, knowing instinctively how it will play out but being unable to do anything to stop it?
That’s how I felt today when I stepped outside to check on the girls and saw Isabel hurrying to join her sister on the swing at church. Just as she had almost reached it, she lost her balance on the uneven ground and fell forward, narrowly missing the sharp edge of the wooden seat. I realized right away that her tears weren’t the result of physical pain as much as they were tears of embarrassment and frustration for having this happen once again and in front of her new friends. I felt tears spring to my own eyes as I went to her and hugged her until she was ready to join in the fun once again.
The same thing happened a few weeks ago when we took all of the cousins to a park for the afternoon. Isabel was hurrying after her sister and cousins when she accidentally tripped on a big tree root. Unable to stop herself, she went flying forward and fell hard in the dirt. She wasn’t badly hurt, but she was so upset about falling. It took awhile to get her smiling and playing with the other children again.
Yesterday, we were at a birthday party and Eva made friends with another little girl. The two of them ran in circles around Isabel, who tried her best to keep up but was often left behind. The final straw was when the other little girl (for reasons still unknown to us) pinched Isabel and pushed her. Isabel pushed back right back, but her heart was broken and we left soon afterwards. Sometimes kids can just be so mean!
Isabel’s physical challenges are not visible to most people upon first sight, unless they happen to catch sight of her AFO’s (plastic leg braces) when she is wearing a skirt or shorts. Yet they do limit and frustrate her at times, especially when she wants to play with other children but is unable to keep up with them.
When Isabel was first diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, I read an article entitled “Frustrations of Mild Cerebral Palsy.” In it, the author (the mother of a daughter with mild CP) writes:
The mild CP diagnosis is hard to live with when your child "appears" normal to most people. Teachers and friends wonder why she isn't able to do many physical tasks as well as she does educational tasks. This is where her self esteem is damaged!! It has been a struggle at times to reassure her that not everyone is "coordinated" anyway. For years she hated herself and hated it that she was the one to "get CP". After years of reminding her that she is a wonderful person no matter what, she is finally becoming a self-assured and happy child.
Still, I wonder what lies ahead for her as she grows up. What other simple tasks will be difficult for her? Since she is "so normal" in all other areas how much will people expect her to do "normally?" These are some of the reasons why the diagnosis of mild CP is so frustrating. We expect her to be able to do all things, and she can't. But since her mental capacity is not affected, we tend to forget that she does have limitations.
I am thankful that Isabel is a happy, social, outgoing and beautiful little girl. I am thankful that she is independent and strong. But sometimes I hurt, because she is hurting. She doesn’t always know how to express her feelings in words, and often we become frustrated because at five years old we feel like she should have outgrown angry tantrums. But no matter what we love her so much, and know that God has a very special plan for this very special girl.
And I can’t wait to see what it will be …