The Kids Are All Right

A word about the little guy…

On the road to toddlerhood, some kids need more guidance than others. Some take time to find an interest in solid foods. Some need help learning to crawl. Others need a steady stream of attention, positive or otherwise, from their parents.

Not our little guy. Paddy is pure instinct.

His interest in food is total. Left to his own devices, I think he’d probably figure out a way to fix dinner.

For months he lolled around on the floor like a big potato. Then, one day, he simply rolled over and took off, clomping on his hands and knees, an oversize bug with an explorer’s heart. Not yet a year old and it’s all we can do to keep him out of the cabinets.

In many ways he benefits from benign neglect. His parents are outnumbered, outgunned, and, in many ways, out to lunch. His sisters, older and savvier, monopolize the family space (the five year-old in particular craves attention like a cop craves coffee).

He is naturally curious, preternaturally competent. His quick uptake of basic skills is remarkable to behold. Toss him a ball, he knows what to do. Clap your hands and he’ll work it out for himself in no time. Simple sign language? He’s on to it.

While all this is impressive, and probably, to my mind, a sign that we are all “made” for certain purposes, it is nevertheless impossible to watch his progress without remembering the struggles of his older sister.

Physically, nothing came easy for her. At three years old, nothing comes easy for her. She never crawled – she took to scooting around on the floor using one arm as a kind of walking stick – and was nearly 3 years-old before she took her first steps. Even now, she is a bit unsteady. She hasn’t quite developed the coordination required for catching and throwing. Feeding is a big issue. Grasping food in a pincer with her thumb and forefinger is tough. We work on chewing a lot.

Earlier in the year, she, along with her mother, visited the NYU Medical Center on First Avenue for an examination known as a “video swallow” that can identify potentially dangerous difficulties in chewing and swallowing food. An excerpt from the results of that study:

The oral phase of swallow was significant for mild anterior spillage of all liquids and limited mastication of solids. Oral bolus transport was timely across consistencies. They pharyngeal swallow reflux triggered in a timely manner across consistencies.

Pharyngeal propulsion/stripping of the bolus were normal with no hypopharyngeal residue noted in the hypopharynx. Bolus materials moved easily into the upper esophageal sphincter.

Translated, that means that when she drinks, just as much fluid ends up in her lungs as in her tummy. As a result, anything thinner in consistency than honey is off the drinks menu. Although, the report did include the following nod to sanity:

Magdalena may also have ½ teaspoon amounts of thin liquids for pleasure.

And what would life be without the pleasure of an occasional ½ teaspoon of water? Like I said, nothing comes easy.

As I watch these kids grow, I become more and more certain that we are all here for a reason. Some of us may be here for more than one reason, but all of us exist for at least one reason, even if that reason is only to help others find their own reasons.

As things stand now, the sky is the limit for our Paddy. If he keeps it up, he could qualify for the 2012 Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a medal, although gold may be out of reach until 2016.

Magdalena’s story will be different, though no less spectacular. And we would all probably benefit from a moment or two spent savoring the simple pleasures, whether drinking a glass of water or playing catch with a child.  

Life is indeed a miracle, timely across consistencies.

The Little Guy

The Little Guy

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