One of the first times I understood I was different was in kindergarten, I had to be wheeled around if we were going on excursions, whereas the other kids would walk. I understood I was different, but I don’t think I was bothered by it. It was just widely accepted that, that was the way it was like with me.
I wasn’t picked at much in kindergarten either, most likely because at that age kids are just more curious than anything, and I had learned from home that if someone asked why I couldnt walk well, or only walked on my toes, I would answer “I was just born this way, you were born a different way”. And they left it at that usually. We talked openly about my CP at home, and my parents were very supportive of me as I grew up, always telling me I could accomplish anything, and I believed it. We also talked about what to say to others who asked me about it or if someone made fun of me.
Small Details Matter
Although I will say some of the harder parts of growing up as a young boy with CP was some of the smaller things in every day life, like learning how to tie my shoelaces, or be completely independent when it came to going to the bathroom. Those are small things, that is easy to overlook, but can be a pretty tough thing to deal with if its not addressed, because I remember at times I was so embarrassed by the fact that I had problems with these things that I would run out without tying my shoelaces (we later got shoes with velcro), or not going to the bathroom for weeks because I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I am not sure wether or not the latter was all due to my CP, but I think it was in the beginning, and even though I could have learned it as I got older, I sort of developed a mental hang up with it, and therefore it took me a lot longer than my peers. Also, wetting the bed etc was a problem sometimes when I was little, just because sometimes, my body would signal me too late that I needed to go, that could also be quite a tough mental thing to tackle.
As I grew older, the other kids started to change how they reacted towards the CP, but so did I. I became more reflective about being different, and started to see how it affected me more. I would say in general though that I was still treated very well by my peers, and I was generally not too bothered about my CP. Except for when I couldn’t play for the local soccer team anymore because of the physical toll it took on me, that made me quite sad, but I enjoyed playing soccer with my friends on my spare time on a local pitch near my house. Soccer was in general something I really enjoyed playing, because it made me feel included and normal. Sure, I was probably the worst one there as I couldn’t run very fast, and my fine motor skills weren’t on the same level. But my friends had no problems including me in their activities, and there was really no question as to wether I should be allowed to join them or not. Not until elementary school anyways, where some of the other kids would always pick me last if we picked teams, or protest sometimes at the prospect of having me on their team, but thats when it helped to have good friends who stood up for me.
Physically speaking I noticed I was different because I would get tired a lot faster than my friends would during physical activities. But I really pushed myself hard, and many times too far just to be able to partake in the activities they did. At that age, the consequences weren’t as harsh as they are now, and other than feeling “numb”, tired and achey the rest of the evening and a little stiff the day after, I didn’t give much thought to it. That stands in stark contrast to today, where if I push my self too hard and expend to much energy, I can be out of it for days, even weeks, before I am back to 100 %. It just goes to show how important proper pacing and being aware of your body is when you have CP. I was routinely warned by the Physiotherapist that I should not over extend myself too much, as it may result in problems physically at a later age, thankfully I listened enough to still have a reasonably well functioning body at 27. But I do definitely notice that I have lived with CP for 27 years now.
I had one surgery during my early childhood years, lengthening my achilles tendons, so that I would not walk so much on my toes, but be able to “touch down” with my heel. So that was really the only period in my childhood where I was taken away from everyday life because of the CP. And looking back at it, it was a frustrating experience, but very worthwhile in the end as it increased my ability to move around drastically.
Realizing My Limits
Mentally the CP only caused moments of frustration and sadness when I was young, but it did increasingly affect me as I got older 7 years old ++, one of the ways it did was as I started to reflect more over my own differences and limits I struggled to reconcile this with what I had been taught at home, which was “You can do anything you can set your mind to”. And I believed that growing up, so it was tough mentally at times to realize that I couldn’t do anything and everyrhing I wanted. I could not become a proffessional soccer player, or a firefighter even though I was quite adamant to my parents about it at the time. 🙂
As I got older, and after having gone through some rough patches mentally also regarding the CP however, I became much better at accepting the reality of my existence, and not viewing it as something inferior or limiting, but rather “just as it should be”. I would say in general that my early childhood was a happy one, and it wasn’t until i reached 10-18 years of age I started encountering problems with bullying and others making fun of me. I will adress that seperately in a video blog (vlog) about bullying coming up in the next few days! 🙂 Until then, I hope you will share, comment and like if you found this article helpful. Also, remember to subscribe to the newsletter (box in the top right corner) if you want to never miss a post. The first newsletter should be going out on Sunday.
Cover image courtesy of kgfoto @ iStockPhoto.com