For a brief period last night, I couldn’t get Brooke to make eye contact with me.
Indulge me, if you would. I’m going to take a moment and relish that sentence. Roll it around a little bit. For a BRIEF PERIOD I couldn’t get her to make eye contact.
There was another “brief period” a while back where we couldn’t get her to make eye contact. (You know, for like TWO YEARS.)
We’d walk ourselves in ludicrous circles trying to get in front of her as she continued to turn to avoid having to look at us. Together we looked like a two headed dog chasing its tail. We’d drag objects that she was reaching for up to our eyes to force her to look. Makes me uncomfortable writing that sentence, but that’s what we did. “You want the Dora Book? Give me even the slightest, most cursory glance, somewhere in the general vicinity of my eyes and it’s yours.”
Eventually we moved on to encouraging the full body orientation that they taught her at school. When talking to someone, she would stretch out her little arm and point at them. Eventually her body followed. Her gaze reluctantly came along for the ride. She looked like an English Pointer who had located its quarry, but it worked.
These days, although she still has to be prompted to look at the person she’s talking to, she does it. She no longer points or awkwardly sticks out her chin in their direction. We use the shorthand of ‘to him, please’ and she looks (briefly) right at her partner in conversation.
So it was a neat (if slightly frustrating) reminder last night of how far she’s come. Isn’t it funny that we often need to slip a bit to see the progress we’ve made?
But neater still was that I knew exactly how to get it back. I knew that the fact that she wasn’t looking at me didn’t mean that we were hopelessly disconnected. I didn’t sulk or pout or retreat. I didn’t get frustrated or overwhelmed. Yeah, I used to do those things. Oh hell, sometimes I still do. Ok, often. Don’t you? Sometimes? A little? I won’t tell anyone. Your secret’s safe.
But I didn’t. Nope. Sure didn’t.
“Big eyes!’ I said as I crouched down about three feet in front of her. She laughed and came right up to me. She put her little forehead on mine and she opened her eyes as wide as she could, just as I did the same. ‘Little eyes!” I said, and we kept our absurd posture and squinted at each other, eyes open just enough to see beneath our eyelashes.
“Brown eyes!” she yelled and we opened em wide again. “Red eyes!” she squealed as we squinted again and laughed at one another.
And then she went running off. Our silly little game, perfected after hundreds of repetitions, brought my baby back to me. A little island of intimacy in an otherwise disconnected sea of an evening.
Good enough for me.