As a nanny, I refuse to have favorites. Each child I've cared for holds a very special place in my heart, and I mean that earnestly. But, my bond with Sloane was different. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and unlike anything I have yet to experience again. I still remember interviewing for the job and thinking "Am I cut out for this? Can I handle the extra care Sloane needs?" Sloane's parents did an amazing job of nonchalantly mentioning the little "extras" involved in this job. So I was sold. Sloane won me over immediately. These "extras" weren't major, but they weren't anything I had done before or had experience with. Sloane had tubes in her nose and they needed to be suctioned out a couple times/day with this loud machine. She hated it. I had to lay her down in between my legs, pinning down her arms and her head in order to do it. I had to sing loudly to her as I did it -- the only way to somewhat distract her from putting a loud suction tube up her nose. The whole process took a total of 10-15 seconds, but it was torture for her. And it was torture for me. I hated that Sloane hated it. But she was a trooper. So brave. So good about it.
Sloane also couldn't walk. I started when she was 16-months-old and while not walking at that age isn't necessarily "abnormal", we knew Sloane needed some help to get her walking. As I write this, I don't even know what Sloane was "diagnosed" with, if she was diagnosed at all. Her parents were firm believers in not labeling and since labeling her wouldn't change her prognosis/treatment, it really didn't matter. It didn't matter because Sloane was (and still is) the most determined person I've ever met. At 16-months-old, this sweet girl taught me what persistence, drive, and dedication really look like. When I was working 7 days/week and going to grad school full-time, I would remind myself of Sloane's persistence and just kept pressing on. When I broke my femur and couldn't walk for 3 months, I thought of Sloane during my physical therapy and recovery. If Sloane, a sweet 16-month-old girl was able to find the motivation, I surely was able to as well.
While delayed physically, Sloane was advanced mentally and emotionally. She spoke full sentences. She had empathy. She was gentle. She was kind. She was simply a delight to be around. She somehow truly understood that she was not able to walk, and that she wanted to. Her parents are marathon runners. She would talk about running and wanting to run like "mommy and daddy". She knew. You might be reading this thinking she didn't really know and she was simply mimicking her parents. I'm telling you, she knew. I don't know how she understood at such a young age, but Sloane was and still is, extremely astute and perceptive.
Sloane also had difficulty eating and drinking. Mealtime was a chore and took at least an hour. I had to distract her with books and singing and make a game out of every sip she took. As I reflect back, I don't remember ever getting frustrated. It was hard work, but Sloane truly was doing the best she could, and it was harder on her than it was on me.
She had physical therapy twice/week and then in addition to that, exercises we worked on everyday. And I mean everyday. They weren't easy and she didn't like doing them. Basically, they were equivalent to you or I going to the gym and doing a really hard workout -- to the point that you are extremely sore the next day. This is what Sloane did every day. Oftentimes during her "workouts" she would be crying, but even through her tears, she wouldn't give up -- she literally would keep going until she completed the exercise. Her poor legs must have hurt so badly, but she pushed through the pain because she wanted to walk -- better yet -- she wanted to run. We never had to bribe her, we simply had to encourage her and verbally tell her how many steps she needed to take or how many squats she had to do, and she would do them. Tears streaming down her face, she would do them.
My last day of work with Sloane was and still is, one of the most emotional days of my life. I left because I had a career opportunity in Los Angeles and couldn't pass it up. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. To this day, I think about what my life would have been like if I stayed with Sloane longer. How much more I would have learned from her. She was just 2 years old when I left and on my last day, again, she was able to comprehend what was actually happening. She somehow understood in her own way that I was leaving, and she empathized with how I was feeling. I was upbeat and made our day so special, but throughout the entire day she kept repeatedly saying to me "I love you Brookie". Over and over and over again. She had said that to me before, but this was different. She knew I needed to hear it. So she kept repeating it.
As I finish this story with tears in my eyes, all I feel is complete gratitude for having the privilege of knowing Sloane. To be a part of her life and to bond with her. I am so lucky. I'm thankful for what she taught me and continues to teach me. Sloane's mom just told me a story of how Sloane was at a roller skating birthday party and having trouble skating. She was so frustrated she couldn't skate that she cried, but rather than taking the skates off like most girls at the party, she left them on and did not stop until she could roller skate around the rink. Her mom said it was torture to watch her struggle but beautiful at the same time. Sloane is so determined and accomplishes everything she sets her mind to. When I'm struggling to find motivation or feel like I can't do something, I think back to Sloane and tell myself that if Sloane could do it, so can I. Because guess what? Sloane did it. Sloane walks. Sloane runs. Sloane plays soccer. Sloane skates. And I bet someday soon, Sloane will be running marathons, just like her parents.
Thank you for being you, Sloane. Love, Brookie.