Monday, January 5, 2009

How Much Is Enough (Or Too Much?)

I was deeply saddened to read about John Travolta's son, Jett, passing. It is reported that Jett suffered from Kawasaki Disease, which lead to seizures and developmental delays.
In one of the articles I read, a lawyer for the family mentioned that Jett had two, round-the-clock nannies, and even bells on his door to monitor his coming and going.

We are fortunate that M is a child who tends to stay put for the most part. I feel comfortable leaving him watching a show while I take a shower. I don't worry about him getting out the front door, mostly because he doesn't have the manual dexterity to open it. In truth, I worry much more about these sorts of things with B, but I know that there will come a time when M is bigger and I will have to be much more aware of his whereabouts just like John Travolta and his wife had to be about Jett's.

What really got me thinking about all of this is an incident that occurred yesterday. M has been participating in an adaptive/therapeutic horseback riding program for a couple of years now. I suppose part of the reason for this is my own selfish desires to be around such glorious animals, but the biggest reasons are that it is excellent for helping children with low muscle tone gain core strength, as well as giving them a beautiful way to connect with animals...perhaps even giving M a skill that he can use later on in life.

Anyhow, yesterday was the second week where the instructor felt comfortable letting M ride with only another instructor leading the horse--no side walkers like we usually have. Her reasoning being that M tends to rely too heavily on the side walkers and doesn't use enough of his own muscle power to hold his body upright. Last week he was 'on,' so I wasn't worried about it. However, this week, I just had that gut feeling that he was going to fall off. I even told the head instructor several times as we were watching him off to the side of the round pen. I have very strong intuition. As goofy as it may sound, it is somewhere between intuition and ESP. The bad part about this, is that it only seems to guide me in negative situations!

It played out like this: Soon after I'd said that I was sensing some bad juju and was very worried that M was going to fall, a student (and stable assistant) who was exercising another pony in the same pen fell off when the pony spooked. She managed to beautifully maneuver the fall by grabbing onto the pony's neck and mane and vaulting off to the side. We all nervously laughed off the coincidence that I'd just mentioned the bad juju and continued to watch M ride. At this point, he was on a lunge line, which means that instead of the instructor holding onto a lead rope in front of the horse, the horse's bridle had a line of rope that the instructor held perpendicular to the horse, thus allowing the horse to walk around her in circles. I started to feel even more nervous and had to actually put my head down so as to not watch. In my head I was thinking, 'How will this play out?' 'Should I tell the instructor that I want to stop now?' But I tend to talk myself out of these deep feelings because I question whether or not I am just being overly protective.

Not long after this, the pony spooked. He immediately went from a walk to a gallop and then reared a bit, tossing my little guy to the ground. He bonked his head quite hard, showing just how important a helmet really is. I ran to him as he was midair, but could only get there in time to hold him and reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Fortunately, he seemed to just have a bit of a bump on his head and a tiny bruise behind his ear where his glasses had pressed into his head. He was so upset, but I held him and told him how brave he was. We all decided that if he would allow it, it was best for him to get back on the pony, this time with the instructor's assistance. He finally stopped crying and we put him on the horse with his instructor and they gently walked around the pen for a bit longer. When we were done, I stood to the side of the pony and grabbed M from the instructor. Wouldn't you know that as I was doing that the pony stepped right on my big toe! Fortunately I had pasture boots on with a small, steel toe, so there wasn't any damage. But it definitely hurt!

I learned later on that there were several earthquakes a few hours north of us. They began about 1.5 hours before this incident. We'd seen no signs of what could have spooked these ponies, but I believe they felt the earth's tremors.

To get back to my point (and to once again blow resolution #1 out of the water!) when I told the other half about the event (even though I'd questioned doing so), he immediately said that we had to stop riding, and that M could have died. He's right...M could have died. He honestly could have. That's a scarier-than-shit thought. There is no doubt that you take on an added risk when you choose to mingle with 500 to 1000 pound animals. But when is the risk outweighing the good of taking the chance? Will I worry this much if B wants to ride a horse one day? Is it only different because M is different? I don't want to overly coddle my children. I want to keep them safe, of course, but I don't want them to be scared either. We parents of children with special needs are more frightened of every little thing than parents of typical children, I believe. I think it's due to the fact that if something happened, as it did to Jett Travolta, that we would question our role as parents, as the ones who are supposed to protect our children, even more...because these kids aren't necessarily able to do it for themselves. I don't mean that to come across as though I think that you wouldn't have the same feelings if something happened to a typical child--naturally you would. It is one of many things that I am unable to truly put into words about this experience. So I hope that you will forgive me if it sounds as though I believe my feelings might be superior to a parent with a typical child. That is most certainly not my intent.

Wishing the Travolta family and every family who loses a child peace and the ability to carry on.

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