Earlier this week I decided to take Leta back to physical therapy to have someone assess whether or not I need to be worried about the way she is walking. Leta is almost nineteen months old and she still isn’t walking by herself. She must be holding on to something with both hands in order to be coaxed into the upright drudgery of slogging her way through this world on her own two feet even when she’s not drunk.
And then, oh God, it’s so ugly I hardly want to describe it. Imagine Frankenstein with a really bad case of jock itch and chronic arthritis. It hasn’t yet occurred to her that she should bend her knees to propel her legs forward so she just swings them wide around her body clipping furniture and dog appendages in the process. Chuck sees Leta coming now and he steers clear like he’s just chopped into a giant redwood and is waiting for it to fall over on his head.
I took Leta to physical therapy for over six months last year when she showed no signs of putting any weight on her feet. I hated going almost as much as she did if only because it’s never fun to listen to my child scream in agony for 50 minutes straight, except perhaps when I’m pulling her toes and then it’s actually quite jolly. After two MRI’s (one on her brain and the other on her spinal cord) indicated that she was in perfect health I stopped taking her to therapy with the blessing of her pediatrician. He said she would progress at her own rate and I just needed to be patient at this point.
At this point I am what Jon describes as Leta’s Human Rudder. She will crawl over to me and lift her arms upward and if I try to pull her into a standing position she yanks her legs up underneath her transforming into Mama’s Human Wind Chime. And she will dangle there indefinitely — eternally if mortality weren’t an issue — to let me know that she wants me to do the walking for her. So I toss her up on my right hip and wait for her to lean in the direction she wants to go.
I know some of you — no, many, actually, many many of you are out there shaking your heads going PUT THE DAMN KID DOWN ALREADY. I know I’ve said this before but you really have no idea what I’m dealing with here. I know I didn’t until she came into my life and ate my face off. Leta is not like normal kids. She’s not even like most difficult kids. She’s far worse, far more intense, far more advanced in her tantrum throwing techniques. I have seen her toss her own body several feet in anger. Maybe that’s how she’s going to get around in life, getting angry and tossing her body until she finally arrives at something: the neighbor’s doorway, the end of the block, juvenile detention.
Leta’s therapy appointment this week was just as bad as all those times I took her last year, and not because she cried the entire time (which she did) but because the therapist took one look at Leta’s zombie-walk and tried to hide her expression of, “It really is as bad as she said it was.” I thought this session would be easier on the both of us because there are lots of brightly colored toys in the facility that Leta has never before seen and if anything can motivate Leta to cooperate it’s the sight of something she hasn’t yet destroyed. But she wanted NOTHING to do with any of the toys because when we arrived for our session I made the monumental mistake of setting down the diaper bag and letting Leta get a peek of my cosmetics bag. CURSE YOU, AVON WORLD SALES LEADER!
In order to get Leta to walk both the physical therapist and I had to hold that cosmetics bag over her head like a slab of meat. I held on to Leta’s hands while the therapist suspended the meat just out of her reach, and oh, the howling! If the tears had been thought bubbles they would have said, “LET GO OF MY HANDS SO THAT I MAY TOSS MY BODY SEVERAL FEET ACROSS THIS ROOM.” And when she finally did walk, stiff leg after stiff leg, clomp, clomp, clomp, they would have said, “BRAAAIIIINNNS! BRAAAIIIINNNS!”
The therapist suggested that we get an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to make sure that nothing is wrong with her hips, and I’ve made an appointment with an early intervention program in our school district. But she said Leta’s problem is still probably only a sensory one. Just like she didn’t like the sensation of weight on her feet, she doesn’t like the sensation of weight in her legs. Just like she doesn’t like the sensation of being told no, stop, you cannot eat soap.
And then she sent us home with this awful contraption called The Pony, a wheeled walker that I’m supposed to strap Leta into three times a day. Except, I can’t strap Leta into anything without it sounding like I’m beating her to death, and that includes the car seat, the highchair, and the straight jacket. You don’t know if I’m kidding, do you? Part of you is revolted at the idea, right? Of putting a baby in a straight jacket. But part of you is like, why haven’t I thought of that?
In addition to the screaming I have to deal with Leta’s inability to steer The Pony away from walls, and she goes crashing into tables and doors and over her own feet. The other night Jon and I were trying to make a game out of it, trying to get her to wheel her way between the both of us but she couldn’t go two feet without wailing in anguish or denting an appliance, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I told Jon to please remove our special baby from her special equipment and so what if I have to carry her to her classes in college, she can lean in the direction of the science building and I will take her there.