This image struck me as rather poignant: our family's muddy walking boots lined up outside to dry.
I have searched long and hard for what must be the tiniest pair of stout footwear available on the market. Then finally a pair came up on an auction site, a UK kids' 7, second hand, in grey and pink. I snapped them up.
Yes, they are dinky and cute.
But they are much, much more than that.
They are a giant symbol of the hard work and determination that has been instilled in Natty over the years. A sign of how very hard she has worked to learn skills others might find easy.
- The tummy time as a baby to MAKE her lift her head.
- The rolled up towel under her tummy to ENCOURAGE her up onto all fours.
- Sitting propped by cushions and in a Bumbo to TEACH her how to sit up.
- Following electronic toys and jangly balls that moved away, to ENTICE her to crawl.
- INSISTING that she got out of her pushchair as much as possible, later leaving it at home.
- JOLLYING her along with songs and rhymes and 'Oh, what's that over there?' every time she wanted to be picked up and carried to DISTRACT her from giving up.
I've lost count of the times this ended in a tantrum, or she really has been genuinely exhausted and needed carrying. And yes, my back suffers sometimes, but... it's worth it.
We are now in a place where we can enjoy nature and reap its benefits; go walking as a family; collect twigs, shells, look for signs of a Gruffalo, forage for blackberries, fill our lungs with fresh air, laugh at each other's rosy cheeks and burn off enough calories to make room for the hot chocolate afterwards.
We are so lucky and grateful to be able to do this.
So, those little walking boots symbolise freedom, self-esteem and fitness.
Not bad life lessons for anyone, not least a child with Down's syndrome.