Thursday, August 18, 2016
Fear of falling: We can't always be there to protect our kids
"What's that mark on Max's shoulder?" Dave asks.
"He fell yesterday," I say, grimacing.
"What happened?" Dave wants to know.
"When we were at Peggy's house for a swim, he came out of the basement door and tripped on the step," I tell him.
I'd been tending to the baby, and looked up to see Max falling.
"MAX!" I wailed, my heart beating faster, and ran over to help him along with a few other people. "Are you OK? Are you OK?"
He stood up. He said he was fine; the bruise would appear later that evening.
"He fell pretty well," someone noted, meaning that he had fallen slowly to one side and not crashed on his face.
"Yes, it was good he fell to the side, because he can't reflexively put out his arms to protect himself," I said.
When Max falls, which happens here and there, he almost always falls to the side. I don't know if he is able to will his body to do that, or if it's just luck. Because of the cerebral palsy, his arms don't automatically launch outward when he goes down. Sometimes, he trips over his feet. Other times, he's off balance; twice in the last few months, Max has slipped off his chair at the kitchen table and onto the floor.
When Max was little, I'd sometimes see bruises or scrapes on his body when I got home from work and unless I'd heard from the nurse at school or our babysitter, I wouldn't know why because he didn't have the words to tell us. One day, I noticed Max had a chip on one of his front teeth. It was tiny, discernible only by me, but to this day I have no idea what happened. I still find it upsetting to look at, a reminder of Max's vulnerability.
These days, Max has the communication skills to tell us how he's gotten hurt when it happens, only he doesn't want to because he thinks I'll worry. He came home from a camp program a few weeks ago with an oozing scab on his elbow and a smaller one on his knee, and refused to talk about it. Finally, he let out that he'd tripped on a step.
Steps can be a challenge, and I marvel at his ability to walk up and down the ones in our home. He clambers upstairs on his hands and legs because he feels more secure that way, but he's fully upright when he goes down. I hold my breath every single time because I'm scared he'll lose his footing, yet he holds onto the railing, goes slowly and manages OK.
In general, Max is pretty steady on his feet. He is a very good walker—a miraculous walker, I should say, given his grim prognosis at birth. He gets around fine despite the fact that his right food turns slightly inward. If this worsens as he gets older, and his muscles grow increasingly tight, surgery might be involved.
At night, when I take his socks off at night and rub his feet, they feel so stiff.
"Does it hurt?" I ask as my thumbs work his tight arch.
"Feels good!" he says, and gives me one of his sweet smiles.
My fear of Max's falling isn't something I regularly think about. It's a latent concern, always there, like my fear that he'll have another seizure or stroke. This is pretty much special needs parenthood in a nutshell: I cannot prevent Bad Things from happening to him. I can only do my best to guide him, hope that I am by his side to help him if he falters and try not to preoccupy myself with what I can't control.