We were in a large, light, bright room in a Victorian building in North London – the home of the Bobath Centre
For those of you who don’t know, the Bobath Centre is the world leading home for physio, occupational and speech and language therapy for people with cerebral palsy: an august and prestigious organisation that does hugely important and serious work with the disabled community.
At that moment, there was nothing serious in the room though. Chris, the director of therapy was hooting with laughter.
She was holding a ball high in the air and encouraging my seven year old son, Arun to reach up and touch it.
Arun was getting crosser and crosser until he turned his lip down and admonished Chris, “It’s not fair! You’re not sharing!” He turned to me. “Chris isn’t sharing the ball!” And he flounced off in a strop.
We all dissolved into happy laughter.
Arun first arrived at the Bobath Centre aged just shy of 12 months old as a “training baby” – the centre had asked for people to volunteer their children as guinea pigs to train new therapists - under the close supervision of the training team. He was so fragile: he was still on oxygen following his very premature birth, he had just had brain surgery to replace his blocked shunt which drained the excess the fluid from his brain and so treated his hydrocephalus. He couldn’t sit up let alone crawl, stand up or toddle. The poor trainees who were assigned Arun were so scared by his legion medical conditions that they barely touched him. And that’s when Chris, the director of physio at the Bobath fell in love with him and decided that she would make an exception and take him on as a patient herself.
Every parent delights in their children reaching key milestones – sitting up, crawling, standing, walking, talking, running. Just imagine what it feels like when your child does it for the first time and right up until that moment you were never sure that they were ever going to do it – In the long years before he walked I used to dream about Arun taking his first steps.
Meri too has been a Bobath baby. We formed such a strong bond with the people at the centre that when they needed a baby to model “normal” behaviour – they asked whether they could borrow my daughter. Her mother took her along and reported that little madam thoroughly enjoyed performing for the crowd and being the centre of attention even at the tender age of 6 months. Since then, she has grown into a beautiful five year old full of grace, wisdom and kindness.
Back in the room in the Bobath Arun walked over to me and decided that he wanted a bit of a break from the hard work of concentrating with Chris and her occupational therapy colleague.
“I’m going to climb on you daddy!” he announced happily before going on to use his father as a climbing frame – his cue for a bit of rough and tumble play with his old man.
As she watched father and son happily wrestling on the physio mats, Chris’ eyes lit up with joy.
“You know,” she said. “When you first presented Arun to me all those years ago, as that fragile little baby, I would never, never have predicted this outcome.”
I welled up with pride. Coming from a world leader in her field that meant a lot.
This is my final blog (at least for now) and I have a confession to make. Whilst have immensely valued your support, you, the readers of dad.info haven’t been my real audience in writing these weekly posts. The real audience has been my grown up children, 15 years from now. I wanted to keep a record of my thoughts and feelings through a formative period of their lives so that one day, they might read them and learn a little about what they were like when they were little.
As Chris said, my children have exceeded all of my expectations and I am immensely proud of what they have achieved. And no matter what they do in the future, I will always be proud of them. I just hope that simple, singular truth shines through to them when they read these blogs in the years to come.
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