Monday, February 22, 2010

The first time's great, but the second? Even sweeter

Over the years, I have spent a lot of mental energy yearning for Max to do things: take that first step, say that first word, feed himself for the first time, ride a bike for the first time, say my name for the first time. All those firsts that other parents eagerly and giddily anticipated, I waited for with anxiety. Because it was never a sure thing that Max would do any of them. I took nothing for granted.

Every single first has been a euphoric experience. You know the feeling: It is irrefutable proof that, yes, your child IS capable of doing the very thing you've been dying for him to do (and, perhaps, the very thing doctors doubted your child would do). I've whooped, I've cried, I've done a crazy happy dance, I've kissed the ground that Max walked on. Yes, I got down on his bedroom floor and kissed the hardwood. There have been smaller but still significant firsts, too. Like the first time Max nodded. And the first time he said the consonant "D," a tough one for him. And the first time he swung a bat.

But then, there's been the inevitable letdown following Max's firsts, as they have not immediately lead to seconds and thirds and fourths. After Max does something for the first time, he tends to not do it again for a while.

I think this sort of thing happens with typically-developing kids, too. It's just that when you have a kid with special needs, you put a lot more weight on those firsts. And when they don't repeat themselves right away, it can be quite the let-down. For me, the second time Max does something is even more of a bigger deal than the first. And the third. And the fourth. Because they mean that Max is truly getting something.

Take the potty training. Before I left for the Blissdom conference, I was so excited that he'd peed. He hasn't done it since and I was bummed, even though I knew it was going to happen on Max's own timeline. Then last night, he pooped on the potty—perhaps you heard my screech "MAX POOOOOOOPED ON THE POTTY!"? And let me tell you, that was even more exciting than his first potty success.

Another major second happened last week. Back in the summer, I wrote about how psyched I was that Max had attended a carnival at his school, despite his fear of crowds and loud noises. And that he tried his first mojito. Kid-ding! In December, I took him to a school holiday sing-a-long. No problem, I figured. But I couldn't even coax him into the room. It was doubly disappointing, because I had thought we were over the crowd meltdowns.

So I was dreading the Valentine's dance at his school, held belatedly last Thursday night. It sounded awesome—music, crafts, cupcakes. Yet all I could picture was Max running down the halls, wailing, which is exactly what had happened at the sing-a-long.

Only this is what went down.

When we got there, Max wanted to go to his empty classroom and hang at his desk. Dave and I let him; we figured that if we could ease him into things, start off quietly, maybe he'd be OK.

Sabrina was fascinated to see her big brother's class, and made sure to leave her mark.

Then we lured Max into a room where they were making crafts. Luckily, there were purple feathers to be had. Wow, was he proud of the picture frame he made. He took off with it, squealing, and showed it to everyone he passed in the hall.

He made sure to show it to his friends, too.

Then he ran into the indoor gym and found one of his best friends there.

Sabrina was having a blast, too.

Why can't they be this nice to each other all the time?! Oh, right, then they wouldn't be siblings.

And then, OMG OMG, Max ventured into the gym, despite the crowd and loud music, and found his BF again.

He hugged him. He kissed-slurped him, too.

He found another friend and hung with him. Sabrina, by this point, was the one wailing. She was getting mad that Max was dissing her for his friends. Then a song came on that she liked and she started jumping around and dancing with me.

Later, Max had a cupcake. Oh, what a night.

At the end of the dance, Dave had to haul Max out of there kicking and screaming because he did not want to leave.

I don't think any of us could have had a more unexpectedly enjoyable night.

Do you know what I mean about the firsts/the seconds/the thirds?


  1. Dear Lord can I relate. Doing it once is one thing, but doing it over and over again? Pure joy. Hit the nail on the head with this one, Ellen.

  2. Me too! Boy, do I ever get it. This hit home with me too. When Emma does something repeatedly, I annoy the crap out of people with it. It's so much ecstasy that I keep wanting to relieve it with everyone and talk about it ALL the time. I also try to overcompensate for the development pieces that are so delayed by pumping myself up with the things she is doing. It keeps me going, I guess. Of course, not everyone shares the joy. But, hey! Oh yeah, I get ya. Thanks for doing this one.

    Go Max! This social piece is so huge. I am very impressed. I can only imagine the wonderful feelings in your heart right now.

  3. Oh yes, the first time is great, but I wait patiently for the second, third and fourth times because they are even better. The first time is exciting, but I don't know if it is just luck so try (and fail) to contain my excitement. Looks like it was a great outing:) Jen.

  4. What a great story, Ellen! I loved all the pictures. Faith's struggles come in the initial "doing". Usually once she does something for the first time, she quickly repeats it (but only for praise, mind you) But those firsts are so long waited for. We haven't even touched a potty yet and she is six. I am not entirely sure she even knows what is going on with a potty! LOL! I don't even know where to begin with this one! I am thrilled that Max had so much fun. Faith has her troubles with crowds too, but she usually just shuts down.

  5. Wow! This is so wonderful. It really is. I never tire of Max's smiles, his glee at seeing his friends, I love the picture of him running through the halls holding up his purple feathered frame.

    He is pure life, "pura vida." That's the expression we used, to mean "life and nothing but life."

    Thank you!!


    P.S. Our son is 13, and still won't have anything to do with crowds, loud noise, hustle and bustle, parades. But, hey, that's alright. I'm kinda like that, too. :)

  6. I'm a special education coordinator and have been following your blog for the past month and I swear it is so endearing and makes me smile every time. I even shared some of your stories with the special education teachers I work with so they could stay in touch with the other side of their job, the parents perspective.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the world, it really means a lot.

  7. I'm with you here. And you can really tug at a heart with your writing.

  8. Oh my, I've got the chills, because I totally understand! Doing something TWICE, or even more, to me means it's really, TRULY happening! the first time is amazing, but it could be a fluke, you know? I LOVE the 2nd and 3rd times!!!

  9. This is SO true! Once could be a happy accident, but it's twice and more when you know that it's "clicked."

    Max hanging with his little buddy is so darn cute! And his buddy -- what a sharp-dressed man he is! He looks like a miniature Putin (only nicer, I'm sure) in a tux!! Tee hee!

  10. What timing! I read your post this a.m. then got us dressed and ready for our a.m. PT session. And, low and behold, A FIRST OCCURED. Today Oia stepped successfully down 1 step, unassisted, no railings or hand held, and remained standing, not falling after both feet reached the floor! One step down conquered!!! I cheered, I swallowed tears, and cheered some more!! And our PT, who is very aggressive in a wonderful way, made Oia try it again. She failed. Then, a third. She succeeded. Oia did this for 5 out of 6 attempts. I'm floating with pure joy and only parents like us get to experience this kind of emotion so I had to share. (I'm smiling.)

  11. Wow! Congratulations on the excellent time at the party. Marissa's a social kid, so I have hopes for the future.

    I guess we need to crawl and walk first :D

  12. Yeah Max!!! Ellen he is soo beautiful I just love reading your posts, they are very encouraging for me because Hailey is so much younger than Max. Thank you for sharing. I'm still looking for more firsts, Hailey has a tough time with crowds too, but for some reason she does fine in a restaurant or supermarket. read my blog for this weekends

  13. Oh yeah... Mac is the "one hit wonder" through and through. When we used to fill out forms about his disability they always asked questions like "can he...", "does he..." Our answer was always "he has, once".

    He is still a bit of a one hit wonder, but these days they are more the things that are sooo difficulty physically that I don't worry if they don't reappear.

  14. How great to see him enjoy the party like that! What a blessing!

  15. I get it, seriously.
    Sometimes when Hanna does something once, I have to sit back and wait for a second time before celebrating!
    The story was great...Max and Sabrina are both so precious...
    I love to hear how well Max is doing every time I check back in. :)

  16. Wow, do I get it. Elijah will do something, I'll get ecstatic and then....wait. It's hard to wait. But inevitably he does it again. At times, it has taken over a year (which is a long time for a two and a half year old!) for him to do something again. The second is definitely sweeter.


Thanks for sharing!

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