Friday, April 15, 2011

A Standing Ovation

In late March, Alex graduated from his ISR swimming lessons. It was one of the more memorable mornings we have had together. On the way into the Y, we ran into our usual contacts, mostly older ladies and gentlemen who attend the water aerobics classes. They have sort of adopted our kids because we swim 4-5 times a week, and our children are so outgoing that they talk to most of the other swimmers. On this morning, Alex informed everyone that he was graduating from his swim lessons. He was pumped. It was a major day in his early life. One of the ladies told Alex that she would watch him (he asked everyone to watch), and then we changed our clothes and went out to the pool. I wasn't really paying attention to Alex's conversations, but was just trying to keep him and Izzy on track to be on time for the lesson.

As Alex changed into his winter clothes, with boots and mittens, he got nervous about his last lesson. He would be flipped over repeatedly and have to swim and float in his ski clothes to graduate. It would hard on an adult, let alone a 30 pound kid. When Alex finally jumped into the water (or maybe I handed him to his instructor because he was so nervous), the entire other end of the pool erupted in applause. I looked up to see that about 30 men and women had stopped their exercise to clap for Alex. They had all been following his month of lessons, and the word had spread that this would be Alex's graduation day. Alex didn't even notice. He just focused on his task. After about 6-7 minutes, he had accomplished his mission, and his instructor stripped him on his clothes and let him float in his bathing suit to reballance. And then, it was over. She handed an exhausted little booby to me for hugs and a warm towel.

And then, the whole place started clapping. I looked up again to see the entire pool clapping for Alex. Alex looked around in complete disbelief. For me? he seemed to say. I couldn't help but burst into tears. How could any of them have known what an amazing day it was to see Alex swim. He can only use one arm/hand and has terrible balance with one leg, which means he is really swimming with one side of his body. But, he swims, he floats, he manages to keep an airway above water, AND, he even loves it.

There are major milestones in the lives of a preemie, and a preemie's parents. We never really know if what we think and hope and pray and dream of will ever really and truly come true for our children. We dream our kids will finally learn to roll over, and then someday take a few steps on their own. While other two year olds are running around and kicking balls, we look at ours and try to be thankful that they can sit up or stand. Although Alex can finally run, he falls every day, trips over his bad foot. As the mother of a preemie, your love is deep, but your heart is hard. It melts at the sight of your child completing anything. As Alex struggles to stay on his tricycle without falling off, I am often reminded of days like his swimming graduation, and my hard heart is made a bit softer.

And then I am reminded, though Alex and his many supporters, that while the world may be a very difficult place for any of us, there are people like the men and women of the water aerobics class whose simple applause made a lifetime of difference in the lives of our family.