Smallest in his house, Walter captures hearts. His short stature and sweet face draw me in every time. Walter is all boy. He loves trucks and tricycles. He prefers walking alone to holding hands. A bit unsteady on his feet, he dashes all over campus to find adventures.
His expression is serious. When we met, his face was impassive, and he shied away from my open arms. As the playtime ticked by, he warmed up. I’m sure the bubbles and cars helped. Still cautious, he walked along with me, pushing a dump truck.
Then it came: we paused on our trek and I wiggled my fingers along his belly. His face broke into a smile. Victory #1. We were getting somewhere.
Towards the end of our time, however, disaster struck. Walter was intent on pushing his truck too far from the play zone. I planted my feet and blocked him. He did his best to outmaneuver me, but I wouldn’t let him by. His frown turned to tears, and he dissolved into a fit. I waited him out.
After the worst of the storm, I scooped him up and carried his truck back to the play area. He liked the ride. His sniffles diminished, so I set down the vehicle and put him on his own feet.
More meltdown mode. Seeing me as a good source of love and transportation, Walter refused to walk. He grabbed my legs and tried climbing them, but I knew this game enough to choose not to play. He threw himself on the ground and screamed. Oh boy.
A few minutes and a borrowed tricycle later, he settled down. His expression went flat as we made our way to the house. No smile for me when I said goodbye.
The next week, we saw each other more. He started to beam at my enthusiastic greetings. I learned his tickle spots, and he would let me hold his hand when we walked. Victory #2. Sweet progress being made.
But how would he act when he was upset? I found out soon enough. Walter burst into tears that afternoon when he bumped his head at playtime. I picked him up and soothed him with my Spanish. I took him to the gate and pointed to the falling rain outside. He relaxed as we looked at the glistening grass and trees.
When I made my move and set him down, he erupted once again. I held his hands but refused to pick him up. If you were fine just a few minutes ago, you should be fine now. His arms around my legs, I shuffled to the couch and sat down.
He followed me up on the sofa. I let him crawl into my lap, thinking I could eventually slide him off and sit next to him, then get up and play. His little figure unstiffened and was comforted.
All too soon, it was time to leave. I shifted him off my lap. No whimpering. Victory #3.
I stood, picked up a balloon, and handed it to him. He took it, still solemn, but content. His eyes followed me the whole way to the door. With a quick wave, and no crying, I exited.
These victories are small, but dear. Trust is being built and a little life changed.
Next time I’m going for #4. I want a smile from him as I go.
What tiny victories are you celebrating these days?