July 9, 2010

The 4th of July Parade

On the 4th of July, Alex walked two miles in the heat, and then hiked two miles on a rocky trail. There was no whining, no complaining and no aching joints. As a matter of fact, Alex was happy the entire time.

Every year Challenge Aspen takes part in the Aspen 4th of July parade, and Alex is always more than willing to participate. My daughter loves being the center of attention; being cheered by parade watchers and handing out candy to the little fans certainly qualified as attention. I am not allowed to march with Alex; I “embarrass” her. Instead I sit in the hot sun and watch the parade for two hours; fun but interminably long.

For those few hours Alex is popular and feels important. She shines in this environment and it makes me quite proud to see what she can accomplish with the right motivation. Experiences like this renew my belief that Alex can do anything anyone else can do; it is her motivational system that is different from others. If only I could figure that one out; but Alex is always one step ahead of me. I will think I have solved the puzzle and then she throws in a new piece.

Following the parade we had made plans to meet John and Courtney, who were doing some technical rock climbing with a group of friends. Courtney has turned into a rock climbing addict and heads out to the stones whenever she can. She assures me it is a very safe sport and naive me; I believe her.

Unbeknownst to both Alex and I, the rocks were located about a mile up a steep and rocky trail. One of those trails were you have to get on all fours at times to navigate through the boulders and loose stones. It was quite difficult for me, especially in my parade shoes; flip flops.I can only imagine how Alex felt, as she did not share with me....a first!

As we started our assent I formulated my inspirational strategy to keep Alex going; but this was completely unnecessary. Once again she was motivated by the cheers of encouragement she got from the sidelines. Courtney’s group could see from above we were coming up the trail. I ignored her and they cheered her on; team work in action!

This is worth repeating….Alex walked two miles and THEN hiked two miles….my 17 year old daughter with down syndrome did not complain or whine about exercise for an entire day. She had no phantom aches and pains, no “sprained” wrist and her ankles were fine. One minor side effect; Alex wants rock climbing lessons now.

The 4th was Independence Day for me too. Independence from fighting with Alex to exercise, freedom from inactivity and a new dawn of hike filled days. After all, I am unemployed, and I do need a hiking buddy; why can't that be Alex?

Alas, I know I am dreaming, I know this was a temporary deviation in her behavior, and the 4th of July will become a distant memory in my quest for Alex to exercise. At least until I figure out the motivation prize, the goal that will keep Alex engaged. Not an easy feat, but neither was the hike up the rocky trail.

As always, hope for the best and adjust as needed!

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