I have told this story before. The day I went in for my youngest sons diagnosis they began to tell me everything that he would not be able to do: he will not be able to speak, he will not be able to walk, he will not be able to use the washroom, he will not be able to feed himself…
“but hold on!” I said. “He CAN feed himself.”
“No, he can’t.” they said.
I ended up getting frustrated with the situation and scattered a small container of Cheerios and raisins across the table, and my son began to pick them up and eat them. The doctor and genetic counsellor looked at me and said,
“He shouldn’t be able to do that.” to which I replied,
“Maybe we should focus on what he can do do and not what he shouldn’t be able to do.”
It was a moment that I should have paid more attention to because since then I have repeated this scenario all on my own a number of times. Placing limitations on my son that I had no right placing on him. It was actually my oldest son who snapped me out of this pattern. We were going on a hike and I had brought the stroller to put my son into. I realized, very early on, that I would not be able to fit the stroller on the trail, and quickly decided that the only logical course of action would be to quit. It was my oldest son that talked me into letting my youngest just try, and wouldn’t you know it, he completed the hike with very little help. It was a flat hike; however, with the roots and rocks it made it very challenging for him.
So now, when it comes to challenging him, we do not shy away from much, which is why when my oldest son asked to hike the Bowen Island Lookout, we decided to turn it into a challenge. I had hiked this trail with my boys on two other occasions; once, pushing the stroller up the steep switchbacks (this sucked) and once carrying him in my Freeloader Child Carrier. (This is an awesome carrier, you can read my blog review).
This time the challenge, as I am sure you can tell from the title of this blog, was for him to do it all on his own.
As a parent of a special needs child, we take every little improvement as a victory. Small things, that normally might seem trivial, become major milestones. As you can imagine, a boy who was once labelled as not ever being able to walk, to hiking up steep switchbacks on his own is quite the milestone, and he crushed it. There were moments of smiles and laughter, and there were moments of whimpers and there was sweating. Pretty much everything you see adults doing on the Grouse Grind, and this was his Grouse Grind.
We took our time, enjoyed the view, watched the bees stealing pollen from the mountain flowers and breathed in the clean mountain air. My oldest son acted as cheerleader, rooting on my youngest as he navigated loose rock on steep slopes, roots woven together across the trail, and downhill sections that severely challenged my youngest sons balance.
When we arrived at the lookout, my oldest son fed the Grey Jays and Stellar Jays as the Humming birds buzzed around us singing and my youngest son charmed the tourists with his infectious smile (Pretty sure he just wanted their granola bars!)
Once we were rehydrated and had eaten some snacks we slowly made our way down to the parking lot, and not once, did I have to carry my youngest. He did it, no excuses, no limitations.
It took us three hikes on the same trail (and many on other trails) to develop and complete this challenge. Do we get to the end of the trail or complete the challenge on every hike we do? the answer is “no”. Do we accomplish our goal every time we hike? the answer is “yes”. Because, even though we completed the “challenge” our goal is always simple… Get outside, connect, improve. It may not feel like you are completing the goal on every outing; however, you will have days when you do complete the challenge and then you will realize that, on every hike you are meeting the goal, you are one step closer to completing the challenge.
So what’s the next challenge for my youngest son? Maybe the Grouse Grind on his own… who am I to say he can’t?
The Walking Dad
*A video diary of this hike is located on Instagram: @thewalkingdad_ca