“Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.” – William Butler Yeats
There are few things in this world I enjoy more than watching my children, witnessing their curiosity and determination as they explore the world around them and getting to see everything anew through a lens of magic only a child can so easily bring. It’s incredible when you think about it just how much they soak in during these first few years of life…language, relationships, mobility, independence…the list goes on and on. But there are few milestones a parent loves more than the “firsts” – first smiles, first words, first steps.
Eliza is over 26 months old and has just started walking, and while that may seem extraordinarily late and frustrating from the outside, the journey has seemed to those of us closest to her to be simply awe-inspiring. Unlike Amelia, who decided one day to walk and never looked back, Eliza has struggled to get here, and the reward of witnessing those first steps seems that much sweeter because of all of the effort that brought her to where she is now. Weeks after that first stride, we are still cheering and clapping with every pass across the floor. Truly, it is still a party in our house that we all revel in throwing day after day for our little walker, with no one more enthusiastic than her older sister. Talk about filling a mama’s heart!
When I pause to really think about it, it seems to me that some of the very best things in life are not the things that come easily, but those for which we must truly struggle to achieve. Even the act of bringing new life into the world is called labor…yet there is perhaps nothing that will leave a mother speechless like seeing her child for the first time. It is one of those moments when the world stops…the love, the joy, the gratitude…it just takes over and leaves room for nothing else, even if only for a moment.
There are undoubtedly challenges to raising a child with special needs (or any child for that matter), but there are also deep and rich rewards. There are gifts to slowing down a process like learning to walk…instead of an overnight leap on a stage, it becomes a meditative quest on a labyrinth. I can see every little correction Eliza makes as she finds herself losing her balance. I can see the intense focus and the high level of engagement required from her body and mind to reach her goal. And I can bear witness to the countless times she’s fallen only to pick herself right back up to try again. It’s astounding. It’s mesmerizing. It’s inspiring. And it truly brings a different kind of joy…one that perhaps is slower to brew but longer to linger, strengthened by the labor that makes the triumph so triumphant.