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Why This Photo Is More Than Just a Kid Going Down a Slide

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We have some time before dinner, so we go to the park to play for a little while. All three of us head to the playground equipment. My son, Bubba, is in the lead. I help my daughter navigate the first step, and she quickly lets go of my hand. She walks in the same direction as her big brother, so I assume she’s following him.

Jill W.2-001

She walks with confidence and determination past the small slides, across the bridge, past her big brother and up the steps of the big slide. When she reaches the top, she gets on all fours at the mouth of a slide. I gasp and yell, “That’s a big one, honey! Be careful! Bubba, go help her!” And before he can get to her, she disappears down the slide. I hold my breath.

In this moment so much flashes through my mind. This is not just a kid going down the slide. Oh no, it’s so much more than that.

It has taken us five years and six months to get here.

It has taken more than 200 physical therapy sessions and almost as many occupational therapy sessions.

Three sets of braces/orthotics.

Hours of cheering her on, holding her hands as she tried to walk or climb and helping her move her little arms and legs to get them to do what is being asked of her.

Countless massages to work out the pain and knots in my back from carrying her ever-growing body, contorting myself to help her with the latest exercises and crawling next to her.

This is the first time she has gone down the big twisting slide on her own.

At this park.

This is the park where we had her 3rd birthday party when she had to use a walker.

This is the playground bridge that terrified her, so she would instantly drop to her knees and crawl on it even after she could walk.

This is the park where I felt judged as an “overprotective parent” countless times as I navigated the equipment with her to keep her safe.

This is where I have spent hours feeling sorrow, hope, jealousy, joy, exhaustion and reinvigoration.

Then she reappears at the bottom of the slide all smiles, and I can breathe again. I offer my hand to help, but she gives me a high-five instead and walks straight back to the steps of the slide. And she rides down it three more times. Bubba cheers then continues to play.

She’s a big girl now and looks (mostly) like any other 5-year-old enjoying the park. And I am standing there, looking like an overprotective mama with tears in my eye, taking her picture at the top of her first big twisting slide. I text the evidence to her first physical and occupational therapists and her daddy. They know the glory of this moment is more than just a kid going down a slide.

Originally published: October 15, 2015
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