When Even Simple Things Are Hard

Need encouragement for when things are hard? Read this.

Feeling discouraged because some simple thing is really hard for you?

Frustrated from seeing others do that exact same thing with ease? Yeah, I’ve been there too. At times it can be tempting to just give up. But I learned an important lesson about persevering when things are hard from watching my special needs daughter and her older sister.

There’s Something about Baby

When our youngest child was born (for this post we’ll call her Baby) we knew right from the start that something was a little different about her. We just didn’t know exactly what. Thankfully, she was healthy and alive and breathing fine. But where our four other babies were floppy and flexible, she was stiff and tight.

On one leg, her foot flexed up towards her shin and hardly moved at the ankle. Her legs stayed raised in the air and she couldn’t lower or uncross them without help. Her arms wouldn’t raise above shoulder level. She cried with almost every little movement.

picture of four day old baby with stuffed animal toy
“Baby” four days old

As the weeks and months unfolded, we saw many doctors and specialists and she was eventually diagnosed with Arthrogryposis and bilateral hip dysplasia. Arthrogryposis looks different for everyone that has it. Without going into too much detail here, essentially that means that two or more of her joints had contractures at birth, including both her hips. Joints with contractures have decreased flexibility and some don’t move at all.

Stretching is Key

Moving and stretching were critical to getting as much mobility in the joints as possible, so at 6 weeks old she started weekly physical therapy appointments and daily stretching. Many mobility skills that seemed simple for our other children (rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, jumping) took tremendous, sustained effort for her. Those seemingly simple things had to be broken down into tiny, specific steps and worked on daily for her to learn to use and move her body.

When Simple Things Are Hard

Before Baby, I had never considered all the steps involved in learning to roll over from stomach to back.

To me that looked like:
Step 1: Put baby on tummy.
Step 2: Baby pushes up a little and rolls over.


For Baby it looked like:
Step 1: Use neck and shoulder muscles to raise face off the floor.
Step 2: Turn head to one side.
Step 3: Keep one arm straight and lowered at side. Raise other arm, bend at the elbow.
Step 4: Raise torso with arm as leverage and simultaneously rotate same side hip up and backward, lifting the leg.
Step 5: Repeat until there’s enough momentum to get torso up and over the straightened arm at side.
Step 6: Baby rolls over.


That is by far and away, not the easiest easy way to roll over. Most kids follow a different procedure but because of her contractures, she had to adapt. 

Baby worked on her Step 1, raising her head up off the floor, for months and months. It was excruciatingly hard for her. She hated laying there, with her face on the floor mat, squirming but without the strength to turn her head to the side or push up off the floor with her hands to raise her head. She tried and tried and “failed” so many times.

But she persisted.

And you know what? One day she got her face off the floor. And we celebrated. Soon after that, she turned her head to one side. And we celebrated. Eventually, at 10 months old, she learned to roll over. 

And we celebrated!!!

A Hand to Hold

Big Sister (child number 4) is only two years older than her baby sister. She accompanied me to almost all the weekly physical therapy sessions with Baby. We nicknamed her “Turbo” because she loves to move, to climb, to run, to jump, to spin…and to do it fast! Her ease in moving her body is in direct contrast to the effort required for Baby.

toddler wearing a shirt that says "big sister"
Big Sister

Big Sister has such a sweet and tender heart and takes her big sister role very seriously. Instead of becoming jealous of all the time and attention Baby was receiving, she watched all the things we were trying to teach Baby in therapy and at home, and modeled them for her, encouraging her to try, and try again. Big Sister’s motivation was a key component in getting Baby moving.

smiling toddler giving her baby sister a hug
Baby and Big Sister

One of my most treasured memories is when I walked past the room the girls were playing in and saw Big Sister lovingly taking 18-month-old Baby by the hand and gently, patiently leading her back and forth across the room to help her practice walking. She could have easily run off and left her sister behind, but instead, she chose to stand beside and help her. 

With Enough Practice, Hard Things Get Easier

Today, at three years old, you might never know that Baby had such a challenging start. She rolls, crawls, walks and climbs. It’s still harder for her than for most kids. But she does it! And it’s so much easier now than it used to be! These days she’s moved on to learning some new things, like jumping and running, at her own small steps pace.

The challenge of learning to move for Baby looks the same for me, only in different areas: Clearing my clutter, cleaning routines, or turning off my mental chatter when my kids are talking. I try and fail and try again. Maybe that sounds like you too. Those things might never be easy for us. But we can learn to do them.

Yet there are lots of other people have those particular things down pat. We can learn from and be inspired by them. Maybe that’s you.

The thing is, we all have our own unique things that we struggle with.

Sometimes the desired results come when we break things down and focus on smaller and smaller and even smaller steps. Finally to a step so small we didn’t even realize it was actually a thing. Baby baby steps. 

And although the road is longer, baby baby steps will get us there.

Sometimes we need our hand held.
And sometimes we do the holding.

There is a beautiful need for both.

That’s what I learned from my daughters.

  • Stretching is key – we won’t change if we aren’t pushing ourselves just a bit.
  • Keep trying – with enough practice, hard things get easier.
  • Break it down – baby baby steps will get you there.
  • Be gracious with others in their own struggles.
  • Find a hand to hold when you need it.
  • Offer a hand to hold when you can.

Try One of These Small Things Today:

  • Push yourself a little.
  • Try baby, baby steps.
  • Reach out with grace- to give and to receive.

Share With Us:

Small Things Over Time is a place for you to find encouragement for your hard things and give encouragement to others. I’d love to hear from you!

  • What little things have made your life happier over the long run?
  • How has one small thing helped put you on a better course?
  • Which one area of life are you most frustrated with right now?

Share your thoughts in a comment,  subscribe to the newsletter, share your best tips or “small things” story or simply send me an email Rhonda at smallthingsovertime dot com.

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  1. Melissa
    March 10, 2018

    This is by far one of the absolute best blog posts I have had the pleasure of reading this year (possibly longer, maybe within the last 3 years)! Simple truths wrapped in humble joy at seeing how to apply it from your daughters’ examples. I was truly blessed in reading it.

    For our family, the frustrating simple thing is our son’s hurdle of brain developement. We know he has need of a glasses perscription due to stigmatism in both eyes. We are not surprised about that because Dad had some of the same eye issues growing up and needed eye glasses at the age of two. The bigger problem lies in the need to sort the physical eye’s need and the need for brain developement. He basically skipped crawling altogether to keep up with his big sister who was only about 16 months older. Through other resources we were able to come up with a routine (you could say “physical therapy” I suppose) to continue his brain developement on our own because we have no access to a visual therapist whose job it would be to find the right course of action between both possible problems. This includes crawling for on hands and knees for 2 minutes, marching while tapping opposite knee for 2 minutes, and working on auditory processing cards for 2 minutes a minimum of once a day; it should actually be twice a day.
    The general thing I have been told is that it should continue until it is no longer needed. Obviously there is more to this story, but that is the gist of it.

    Thanks so much for this post…it’s so needed!

    1. Rhonda
      March 12, 2018

      Wow, Melissa. Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate them. One of my children also had/has vision and brain development issues so I truly understand how that can be very challenging for the whole family. It sounds like you have a good plan in place using the resources you have available. Just doing a little bit each day can help him so much.
      All the best to you and your family!

    2. Andrea
      June 13, 2018

      Melissa I read your comment and my heart goes out to your family. Helping children be the best they can be is very difficult. My family has been trying to also develop our brains and we found the wonderful course online. It’s called Brain Highways. It’s been a great gift to my family. Wanted to share incase it’s something that could benefit your family too. Best Wishes in your continued brain development.

  2. Oh My Gosh! You have me in tears! Watching your little ones in the video showed compassion rolled into a tiny present. Thank you for showing how baby steps make a difference in progress. I’m a firm believer that we can learn to move through hard moments by practicing and making small changes bit by bit. It can be hard to move past the overwhelm but this post has once again inspired me to take tiny baby steps.

    1. Rhonda
      April 28, 2018

      Thanks Jacquie! I think that video is one of my all time favorite mom moments. Melts my heart every time I watch it. 🙂 Know that I’m cheering you on in your tiny baby steps. Here’s to one step at a time!

  3. I love the lessons to learn section. This reminds me so much that we can do hard things. What an amazing example you are to your daughter to teach her and to help her do hard things! I love this. #WanderingWednesday

    1. Rhonda
      May 16, 2018

      Thank you Michele for your kind words! You’re right, we can do hard things. 🙂

  4. This brought tears to my eyes, there is so much to be learned from the natural strength and grace of babies and toddlers! Wonderful writing and reminders, thank you for sharing! #wanderingwednesday

    1. Rhonda
      May 17, 2018

      Thank you so much. I learn so many important lessons from my little ones. Love being a mom 🙂

  5. Lori | Choosing Wisdom
    May 17, 2018

    I’m in love with this! You have hit the nail on the head and how important it is to keep moving, and no matter how small those baby, baby steps might be it is still progress.

    1. Rhonda
      May 17, 2018

      Thank you. It’s something I have to keep reminding myself. Small steps are still progress. 🙂

  6. nic@nipitinthebud
    May 17, 2018

    Kids are such amazing teachers. I love the baby and toddler years so much watching them learn to talk and walk and if ever there were role models for grit and determination and self-belief it’s little ones. Such a lovely bond between the sisters

  7. Michelle King
    May 28, 2018

    Rhonda, wow thank you for sharing your lesson in life. Small baby steps are sometimes the best way to go in life especially when things are hard. You and your family are so dear to our hearts. Thank you for your inspiring words.

    1. Rhonda
      May 30, 2018

      Thanks Michelle for your sweet comments. Hope you and your family are well!


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