A year ago I couldn’t have imagined this.
That he could wait somewhat patiently during a half-hour delay.
That he would willingly put on a helmet (sensory processing disorder–he doesn’t normally like having anything on his head).
That he could hold his attention pretty well despite an audience, two diesel trains passing, and a hay truck that arrived three hours early (and being unloaded by our favorite: The John Deere tractor).
THAT HE COULD RIDE A HORSE.
Trooper had his first horse show this weekend. He was slated to ride in three events. The people running the show always have the therapeutic riders go first–how nice to have a team that understands these kids!–and Trooper with another boy rode in the first event. They “tied,” so both boys got a blue ribbon. You could see Trooper’s grin all the way across the ring. What warmed the cockles of my heart even more was the evident pride in Rascal’s voice as he said, “Hey! Hey! He did it! He got a blue ribbon!”
Trooper seemed a little distracted toward the beginning of the second event. I could hear him attempting to vocalize and he kept looking back to where we were standing near the ring. Meanwhile, I prepared my phone to take some more video of him once the event officially started. As soon as he saw me raise the device he stopped and grinned again with a quick jerky nod. Suddenly it hit me that he had been waiting for me to film him! He wanted me to capture this! After that he did pretty well with the event. I should add that on two occasions we’ve filmed his lessons using his iPad and he loves to review them. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t watch it at some point. Today he knew this was special and he wanted to be sure to see it.
By the time his third event came up–the sixth of the day–he was tired and wanted to dismount. His instructor told us that he indicated to her his need to stop clearer than anything he’s told her yet. She could understand him right away. That was huge. So although he had already been announced into the ring he was allowed to stop and the announcer congratulated him on a job well done. Trooper just grinned–his ear-to-ear grin–and walked out of the ring the happiest guy in the world. He came right over to us….and took my phone to start watching his replays. My goofy boy.
I said “a year ago” because it has been less than that since our first trip to St. Louis where he was taken off his unnecessary medication and given other intervention. Around that same time he was given the chance to come here to ride. Are his successes here due in part to said intervention? Or is it because he was given a goal–outside of his usual schoolwork and daily living ones–a goal where he could enjoy himself and reach for something because he wanted to? We always wanted to find something for him that he could do and take pride in. The other boys in the family have the swim team (Trooper only likes the pool if he’s got one of us next to him) and they have Trail Life. This is his. This is his chance to shine.
I know I always end a Trooper post by saying we’re so proud of him. And why not? He’s had to overcome more in his nearly ten years than I’ve had to do my whole life so far–and probably even farther. To have been able to stand there and see him ride that day–a moment just for himself where he could rejoice publicly in an accomplishment…. the words just fail me. Proud almost doesn’t begin to touch it.
I think I’ll send one of these pictures with our annual Christmas card to the NICU where he lived the first 119 days of his life. I hope they still post the cards from their “NICU graduate families” on the front desk like they did in 2003. I hope some parents stop and see how well he’s done and get a new hope from him, just as we derived from the cards 10 years ago during that first month with its many many crises.
Yes, I’ll send one with his huge smile.