I feel the slight weight of his little hand on my shoulder as we walk. He has learned I am always here to steady him. When there are roots poking through dirt on the trail, when the hike takes a steep turn or when he needs to brace himself to make it safely to lower ground, his hand instinctively rests on my shoulder. It steadies him as it pulls me ever so slightly out of balance.
I think about the day I ran on the same trail with his five year old body heavy in my arms, his sticky blood against my neck. He was hardly crying, but the pout of his lower lip signaled to me that he was in pain. I cursed myself again and again for not having held his hand. He had been tired. He was unsteady. The trail was rocky and uneven. If I only held it, he wouldn’t have tripped and sliced his eyebrow on a rock. We wouldn’t have ended a beautiful summer day with a trip to the ER where his skin had to be glued back together.
I suppose it was that day that put us where we are now, hiking a trail side by side. One of us steady, the other slightly out of balance. He talks as we walk, telling me all about his most recent movie obsession. He teases me and giggles at my reaction. He talks about his brother and sister who have run ahead on the trail, squealing, lost in imaginative adventures.
I notice the lack of urgency in our steps. His siblings are old enough to run ahead without us. In many situations, I no longer feel the need to drag him along at record speed to catch up. I keep pace with his steps. They are slower than mine would be if I were walking alone and I am suddenly aware of the beauty in that fact. Sometimes with my son, the pace in hiking and in life, is slow and heavy. Sometimes I try to force him to keep pace with the rest of us. Sometimes I feel weighed down. But not today. There is a difference between being weighed down and being grounded. Moving slowly affords experiences that moving at full speed does not.
I relax into the comfortable rhythm of our steps. I smell the autumn air. I watch the wind gently push the trees. I notice the color of the sky. I watch the sun on the water. I realize that as passionately as I push him forward, my son is gently inviting me to stay behind. He is reminding me to breathe. And to look. And to listen. And to feel.
He tilts his head down and looks at me over his glasses. I see the spot on his eyebrow where the hair never grew back after the gluing. I think of all the hikes we’ve taken with his hand on my shoulder. How being there for him is sometimes a responsibility I don’t want. About the times I want to run ahead with my other two children. The times I want him to keep pace. The times I don’t want to move in slow motion. The times I don’t want to have to stay behind to steady him.
And then I realize, he is always there to steady me.
When I forget what is important. When the world tells me who he should be or who I should be. When the day leaves no room for beauty. When the week leaves no room for peace. When the hike feels like something to rush through. He slows me down. He encourages me to be with him. Hand on my shoulder. Slightly out of balance with the hectic pace of the rest of the world, he steadies me with the realization that I never wanted to keep time with the rest of the world anyway.
Random Acts of Kindness Initiative
Saturday, March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day! Join others around the world in the “Random Acts of Kindness Campaign” to help gain acceptance of people with Down syndrome. Get planning and have some fun!!! Invite your friends, family and school to participate, too! Take a picture of your random act of kindness and post it to #wdsd15 and/or share it on our MCDSIG Facebook.
- The Fresh Air Fund-Our First Experience As A Host Family
- Because I don’t know what else to do…