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07/26/2006

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Ducky3 That stuffed AFLAC duck was a really bad idea.  Charlie's spooning with it in his crib right now, addressing it in a no-nonsense tone — "DuCK!" — squeezing its electronic voicebox and making it holler, "AFLAC!  AFLAC!  AAAAFLAAAAAAC!" and then answering it in kind with a seductive ducky growl.

Wait, can ducks growl?  How about feral ducks?  What if they're really feeling the bloodlust?  No matter.  He's not asleep, but he's occupied for the moment, long enough for me to tell you a bit about his physical therapy.

The therapist showed up in shorts and a T-shirt, ready to work, or rather to play.  She observed Charlie for a while, then got down on the floor with him and put him through his paces.  She played with him, but not in the way you'd think: he was not so much a playmate as a plaything.  Here is what she observed:

"Charlie was very flexible with mild hyperextension in both knees and mildly excessive hip flexibility.  He had low muscle tone — minimal resistance to passive stretch.  Functional strength was fairly good for dynamic activities (e.g. creeping, pulling to stand), but less for antigravity postures.  [...]  He lacks postural stability in his trunk and pelvis for standing and stepping.  [...]  His skills are solid at the pre-walking level of 11-12 months."

(I have omitted the passages in which she wrote about Charlie being a "delightful, social, and energetic toddler," but I will be happy to provide a copy on acid-free archival paper, suitable for framing, to anyone who would like to read that part and then display it proudly in your home, your office, or perhaps your automobile.)

The upshot of all this playing and delighting was that the therapist suggested a set of activities that would help Charlie develop the necessary strength and stability for steadying his upper body.  These activities have two things in common: they involve making Charlie wobble, and they involve making Charlie unhappy.  Riding on our shoulders, being wheelbarrowed around the room, sitting atop an air-filled pillow that I privately think of as his whoopee cushion — all of these things are difficult for him, and therefore mostly unpleasant.

But we do them.  We also follow Charlie around, our hands tightly locked around his hips, while he walks forward and we knee-walk behind.  (He has a brightly-colored harness made of nylon webbing that offers convenient handholds for us while we do this.  I have been thinking that a pole with a hook on it would be a fitting innovation so that I could supervise him from the comfort of the sofa.)  This activity, by contrast, is great fun, and has probably done more than any of the other activities to encourage him...

...To walk.  Which he is now doing.  Unsteadily, over only short distances, and with a proud grin on his face as he covers the distance between TV cabinet and coffee table, saying, "Wuhk!  Wuhk."  Suddenly he can also get up from a sitting position into a stand, raising first one knee and then the other.  (This method, which the therapist called "very sophisticated," is difficult even for me, and y'all know I'm fifty kinds of sophisticated, right?)

He also now has a riding toy, which I think of as his hoverbike.  (And it's not a onesie, mister; it's a speedsuit.)  He loves it ferociously, mounting it every chance he gets, fitting his yogurt container full of crayons carefully into its cup holder, and riding hell for leather, backwards.  (He cannot go forward, but I am assured by the therapist that no little kid can at first, so I refuse to apologize for that.)  I'd return the toy to the store and ask for a refund, complaining that it appears to be stuck in reverse, but he's already put approximately 8,000 miles on it and I don't think I'd get much on the trade-in.

So that is where we stand.  And walk!  And ride, ever backward, quacking hoarsely.

Tomorrow we're leaving for a trip west.  Approximately 49 hours of air travel and 17 days on the road will ultimately put us in a beach house on the Oregon coast, sharing a hot tub, a "spectacular professional kitchen," and a great deal of liquor with several of Paul's college friends.  The house also has wireless Internet, so I'll be checking in from there, if I'm not too boiled, baked, drunk.  Or out walking, at last, with my boy.

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