Why I Don’t Want to Have a Play Date :: My Toddler Can’t Walk

Toddler Can't Walk
I have an adorable, sweet, laid-back almost-nineteen-month-old little boy. I absolutely adore him and love watching him play. I also have a pretty large group of friends with toddlers about the same age, many of whom often suggest that we get them together “for a play date.” I nod my head politely, but inside, I’m cringing. I don’t want to have a play date, and I will probably avoid the actual scheduling of one as long I can politely do so.

Here’s the thing, my son doesn’t walk.

At nine months old, my sweet boy was diagnosed with a gross motor delay. He wasn’t sitting up quite as well as he should have been, and he was nowhere near crawling or pulling up. Our pediatrician ran a slew of tests, all of which came back normal. She also referred us to Rainbows for a developmental assessment. Rainbows confirmed that he was delayed in the gross motor arena, while his fine motor skills were advanced and he otherwise appeared fine. He started doing weekly physical therapy with an amazing Rainbows physical therapist who comes right to our home. {Truly, I cannot say enough positive things about Rainbows and our therapist.} He began making progress, slowly and steadily. At first, we focused on helping him maintain balance from his core and then helped him learn how to army crawl.

Even though his blood tests had come back normal and all the experts seemed to think he was just “doing things at his own pace,” I often felt plagued with fear late at night that there was a more ominous diagnosis lurking just around the bend that we had yet to discover. I stayed up Googling all of the potential causes of gross motor delay, often crying while reading worst-case scenarios.

Around our son’s one year check up, our pediatrician referred us to a specialist who officially diagnosed him with hypotonia (low muscle tone), and explained that the cause is often hard to diagnose. After going through a litany of scary potential causes (I listened with barely-restrained tears burning my eyes), she explained that it can also sometimes be benign. If it’s benign, he will eventually catch up and seem normal. I say “seem” because she added that a trained eye will probably always be able to tell he has low muscle tone, and he likely won’t ever be very athletic. She suggested that we continue with physical therapy, have a full vision screening done (poor depth perception can be a cause that we had not yet eliminated), and see her again in a few months.

We’ve since had his vision tested and it is perfect. He continues to make regular progress in physical therapy, but there are still concerns. Just this morning, his therapist recommended a hip x-ray to rule out more possibilities. No matter how much I hear and reassure myself that he’ll catch up at his own pace, I can never shake the nagging fear that there’s something more serious that is wrong, that he’s going to suffer socially, or that he’ll be mistreated by his peers. I am a worrier, so the list of “the worst case scenario” runs on a loop through my mind during every therapy session or doctor appointment.

Then I find myself feeling guilty, knowing there are so many kids and parents with such larger battles to face, and remind myself to be thankful for how healthy and happy he really is. And when he’s just at home playing, it’s often easy to forget my worry. He crawls around the living room, pulls himself up to standing to retrieve toys from the cabinet, and takes such joy in life. He does not fuss much and gives his smiles easily. He is a joy.

Which brings me back to why I don’t want to have a play date.

When I watch him with other toddlers his age, it is hard for me. No matter how much I try to stop myself, I cannot help but compare his abilities to what other toddlers his age (and even younger) can do. I worry he will never catch up. I feel defensive when people ask about the odd way he stands or refuses to extend his legs to stand when we set him down. And I don’t want to have any of those negative emotions mixed into my time with him, which is already somewhat limited because I’m a working mom.

So, the next time you ask for a play date, please know that I don’t want to have it . . . and it’s nothing to do with you.

toddler can’t walk


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