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Stuff 'n Nonsense The Joys Of Parenthood
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My little girl is growing up so quickly. I blinked and she was born. I blinked again and she was walking, another blink and she was turning one.

By the time you read this she will have celebrated her third birthday. I don't know if all parents do this but for me, when my children turn another year older, it's a time for reflection.

My sons, ages 15 and 13, are teenagers, which brings its own joys and trials. As often as my boys are funny, intelligent, amazing and awesome, they are also annoying, destructive, lazy and smelly.

I can say this because I gave birth to them. I've earned that right.

But as each year gives way to another, there is one thing that remains the same - time goes by so quickly.

Eryleigh, our second-wind baby, born when her brothers were - as my husband put it - "self-sufficient," has enriched our lives in immeasurable ways. We never could've imagined how one little person could change the way we see the world simply with her dimpled smile and deep, brown eyes.

With that said, for a time we worried our princess might be autistic. By sheer luck, we managed to hook up with a wonderful company that specializes in early intervention therapy and support for children within the autism spectrum. Although she was eventually given a diagnosis free of autism, she continued with the therapy to help with some of her other issues.

One of the challenges Eryleigh has faced is her severe language delay. You see, as brilliant as my daughter is, she cannot put together a sentence another person could understand. She uses a combination of sign language, her own language, and gestures to convey her intent. For what it's worth, the kid is pretty good at communicating when in fact, she's not saying much at all that sounds like English.

Now that she has turned three, she no longer qualifies for the specialized therapy but we've been so thankful for what she's received and now she will transition to the school district for speech therapy services.

She's been evaluated by so many people their faces have started to blur, but I'm so appreciative of the time these extraordinary men and women have taken on behalf of our daughter. Their efforts have enabled us to learn how to help Eryleigh from "brushing" her skin to doing "deep input" exercises to the constructive games and play sessions that her therapists engaged in, every little tidbit of information has been taken and applied in the hopes that someday soon Eryleigh might be able to say something as simple as "I love you" instead of walking away in frustration when she can't get her point across.

It would be easy and almost instinctive for a parent with a child like this to want to shelter and protect that child from the outside world because often other children can be cruel when they sense someone is different but having gone through something similar with our oldest son, I do the exact opposite - even if it breaks my heart.

To that end, I've recently enrolled Eryleigh in a dance class. She looks the part of the prima ballerina with her lovely little figure clad in a pale peach leotard, matching ballet slippers and her curly hair tucked into a bun, but she has been less than cooperative when it comes to participating in the class.

Here's the part where the protective mom in me is tempted to pull her from the class to try again later. But that's not what I'm going to let myself do. She's afraid because while all the other children her age are wonderfully verbal, Eryleigh is silent. She knows she's different. So she clings to me. And I want to save her. Here's how I will do that: I'm going to take her back to the dance class, drop her off, kiss her cheek, and leave her there. She'll cry. She'll look at me with wide, terrified eyes, and I will walk away.

The thing is, I can't always be her safety net and even as it kills me to take the hard line, I'll do it. As I've told my oldest son, who still struggles with a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to concentrate, read and memorize, I will tell Eryleigh when she can understand, "The world will not work around you; you have to work around the world."

Sometimes I'm sad for my son and daughter who seem to have inherited similar difficulties. Their path isn't the primrose one but then I remind myself that the people who get the most out of life are the ones who didn't come by their life lessons easily and I know conquering challenges is how we as humans, evolve and grow into good, solid adults. Then I stop being sad and start feeling proud that my kids will become people who aren't crippled by adversity but stronger for their experience.

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.