Tuesday, 6 October 2015

First steps.

It wasn’t much to say but there he went and said it. “First steps.”

He looked about in his late sixties - one tanned guy full of vitality, pausing from his bicycle jaunt around the beautiful South Devon seafront. We were in the middle of our end-of-summer vacation, strolling along, luckily soaking up the last of the sunshine before the rainy season closes in. Rukai had one hand in mine, one in my husband's, and two feet chasing each other's shadows down the pavement in that gangly, stompy, slightly stiff-legged way all new walkers go forth and conquer.

Toddle, toddle. Pause, look at shoes. Look up at me, grinning. At Dad, grinning. Toddle, toddle.

We'd just been observing the boats moored in the harbor, and turned to find him there - an apparition of hope perched on two wheels, uttering those two magic words.

“First steps.” A huge smile. We all smiled back. But Rukai had more important things to do than to engage in conversation. No time, mama. I'm practicing. He tugged us back towards the path.

Toddle, toddle.

Sweet Rukai had been missing during the past few days, substituted by his secret ornery persona we've lovingly called Captain Crabbo. He wouldn't eat what we gave him, he didn't want to be in the house nor leave it, not in the car, not in the swimming pool. I wasn't allowed to dress him nor help him get dressed. I couldn't brush his teeth, peel a banana the right way, sing along with anything on TV, nor breathe to his satisfaction. Yet we persevered. As you do.

With Down's syndrome and it's delay, the Terrible Twos becomes an entirely new adventure. It's like a triple-length miniseries of Tot Terror. Some days that tunnel-ending light is covered over completely, like east London windows during the Blitz. Keep 'em covered til the danger has passed. He's going on four. This is a long road.

All kids go through Terrible Twos, but unfortunately for us, the longevity of this developmental stage brings with it that old Fear chestnut and its brutal questions: "what if he has a sensory disorder? Why doesn't he talk yet? I wish I could get him to control that spoon better. When will he stop casting?" For days, the sense of being overwhelmed quietly threatened - like those black boiling clouds that precede a hurricane, there it was. That fear which is the monster under my bed. Worse - it's the thing that eats the thing I'm afraid of. It's the Big Fear. The Great Unknown. Ye Olde 'What if?'

But no. Not today. No What If. Just what is. One life-experienced dude on a bike grinning at a toddler toddling. Two male creatures on either end of the life cycle grooving in the sunshine. The timing of this encounter was impeccable.

We bid farewell to bicycle guy, looked back at each other and smiled. Yes, yes, these days are New. But aren't they all?

He is three. These are indeed First Steps. There will be Seconds. Twentieths. They will all come one after the other, toppling like dominos, that happy click-clacking reminding us that in order to get there we always have to start from here. From somewhere. Tip the first block and every one thereafter will fall into its place. Still, we cannot predict precisely what that place will be. Life's mystery.

"First steps."

Easy does it. Every something new we take as it comes, one foot in front of the other. Our first steps as a family. Our first steps on this unknown journey.

We walk together along the sunny seafront that keeps those crashing waves at bay.

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