Between January and March this year we got our routine back of Coraline going to preschool. It felt lovely. It was easy for me to walk Coraline there in her pram and drop her off and pick her up each day of the week. Coraline was so content and happy there.
Then Small Steps group went back face-to-face in April after lockdown. Coraline was offered her space back in the Tuesday afternoon group. Small Steps give children who need it a helping hand to take their first steps, and they run weekly groups suited to each child’s level. It is free of charge for families.
It meant I had to drive Coraline to their premises half an hour away; something which takes a bit of courage on my part. After a few weeks of the sessions, I was asking people, “do you think we should keep going to Small Steps?” and half hoping they’d say, “no,” as that would have been easier. Easier because Coraline was really shouting a lot during the sessions and refusing point blank to do things like try the parallel bars. She’d cry a lot and I would feel embarrassed in front of the staff and other parents; though I knew they understood. We kept going because our instinct was that it was good for Coraline. And because the people I asked said, “yes, keep going”.
Each week Small Steps took such care to make it fun with lots of singing for Coraline as they knew she loved music. But it really tested my mettle as it felt plain hard taking her along, and I felt plain tired and embarrassed.
On our fifth week in, I felt an amazement when she put her hands in the handwashing tray for the first time voluntarily and sat on her stool on her own. I couldn’t believe she was beginning to calm. I felt like we had found the treasure.
Last week, our sixth week in, I felt plain proud. She loved the tall bubble tube, and she did lots of high kneeling in front of it. She even tried sitting on the peanut ball, though she still went to sit beside her shoes and socks afterwards which for Coraline means, “let’s go now”.
Yes, last week and the week before were celebratory, but it doesn’t mean that our next session after half term will necessarily be smooth sailing too.
Kevin told me it’s a bit like his daily meditation which he has recently taken up. He said, “Go into it without preconceptions of what the experience has to be. Don’t judge the experience as good or bad, it’s just the experience. Everyone loves the brilliant sessions but sometimes it doesn’t work like that. You might label it as a ‘failed’ experience but it’s just an experience. So, say to yourself, ‘OK, it was like that today. I prefer it when things are easy and smooth, but it was like that today.’” He went on to say, “we can’t control the experience, but we can accept the experience whatever it is, and let go of the need to control it.”
For me, used to a default mode of being able to control everything, it is a lesson in letting go and a lesson in being OK with it just as it is. I think that’s the real gold. Whatever the experience, we are going to grow from it.
Read more from Liz on her blog Coraline & Us