everything

*

I come home from work with a surprise in my hand. The new Elmo’s World DVD had been leaning against the door when I pulled up.

“Brookey Baby,” I sing-song as I walk in the door, “I have a surprise for you!”

“You do?” she answers.

“Yup, I do.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a surprise!”

“I really, really love it!” she replies with scripted enthusiasm.

I laugh. “You don’t know what it is yet, silly. How do you know you love it? What if it’s a stinky surprise? What if it’s, oh, say .. poop?”

She laughs. The word gets her every time. “That would be stinky.”

“Right. So let’s see what it is.”

I rip open the top of the mailer, then hand it to her. She reaches in, pulls out the DVD and gasps.

“I really, really love it!” I ignore the fact that the words carry the exact same inflection as they did before she knew what it was. Not the point. And I know she really does love it.

She must have seen a preview for Elmo’s World – Food, Water and Exercise because she’d gotten in her head that she absolutely, positively had to have it. We’d scoured the local video store and two really big toy stores to no avail before resorting to the Internet. $3.99 and two days later, my girl has her DVD. She is hugging it to her chest as she spins.

“Can I watch it?” she asks. God, how I love listening to her use words. I swear, I’ll never tire of spontaneous, functional speech. Ever.

“Sure, love,” I say. “You start to watch it and I’ll change my clothes and then join you, ok?”

She doesn’t answer. She’s already half-way up the stairs.

I come down a few minutes later to find her completely engrossed in the video. I’ve learned to play these scenes carefullyΒ (ed note: please click on the words in blue to read one of my favorite posts on the topic). When she’s in Elmo’s World (or Godspell Land or Terra de Dora or well, anywhere but here) it can be nearly impossible to break in.

I’ve learned to subconsciously remind myself that it has nothing to do with me. It’s become an automatic exercise. One that doesn’t always work, but I try. I remind myself that my girl’s needs are sometimes (often) vastly different than mine. That she may not be able to handle affection in the moment. That it’s ok if she can’t. That I can’t walk away hurt when she gives me the Heisman. That she will let me in when she’s ready – and able.

I walk over to the couch and hover momentarily, gauging her reaction. There is none, so I sit a small distance away.

Without a word, she picks my arm up and moves it out of her way. She climbs into my lap and curls into me, nuzzling the back of her head into my chest.Β She pulls both of my arms back around her into a tight squeeze. My hands land on her tummy.

I am in heaven, holding my girl, resting my cheek on her head and my hands on the soft, exposed skin of her belly.

I can’t see her face. We don’t talk. She nervously shushes me the first time I answer Elmo’s request for information. My role is clear.

I’m in – on her terms.

As cavalier as I may try to be (an act that I’m sure no one buys anyway), in this moment, that’s enough.

In fact, it’s everything.

*

28 thoughts on “everything

  1. Oops! Should have finished the sentence- Thank you for sharing this. LOL, sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet.

  2. My heart is a giant puddle on the floor right now. How beautiful. What a lovely, simple moment of affection with your daughter. And these moments? They count, oh, how they count. (So happy for/with you.)

  3. “God, how I love listening to her use words. I swear, I’ll never tire of spontaneous, functional speech. Ever.”

    This. Exactly this. No matter how far M gets, I hope and pray that I never get tired of it. Of being able to ask “are you hungry for dinner” and simply getting an answer, not 20 minutes of Dora the Explorer. Just that. Maya’s come so very far, but it’s the answer to that simple question that still gets me right in the gut.

    Thank you for sharing your very special moment with us, we’re all the better and more hopeful for it.

  4. It’s amazing how much joy a $3.99 Elmo’s World Video can bring!! It’s just such a small thing and the result was awesome!!

  5. Thank you for sharing. I have had similiar experiences with my son and it is so nice to get another mother’s perspective.

  6. It’s always work, gauging what may come if the terms of such a moment are non-negociable. This little, simply adorable exchange in itself is a HUGE marker of progress and just what the doctor ordered. Fill up those cuddle reserves. Fill em to the brim. Thank you for sharing this moment.

  7. Beautiful – I’m so happy you two were able to share that moment. Spontaneous affection – so easy for some kids, so hard for so many of ours on the spectrum. I love it when our son says something affectionate or complimentary without being prompted. A couple years ago, he said to me, “You know, I kind of like you!” I was thrilled – still am.

  8. My daughter will be 15 in Sept and we are going to see Sesame Street Live “Elmo’s Heroes”. I know parents who don’t let their older kids watch preschool shows and they sneak it like porn on the internet. We are going and sitting on the floor and she will be the happiest, most adorable person there. πŸ™‚

  9. This makes me cry and smile simultaneously. I’m smiling because I know how much joy that brought you after some rough spots lately. Crying because, well, it’s the hardest thing to do, isn’t it, to join them on THEIR terms. Autism’s terms, sometimes. I’m struggling with that so much lately it hurts. Your post gives me glimmers of rainbows to look for when I feel like I’m in the middle of a raging storm. Thanks. I needed an anchor today and you tossed one my way.

  10. that totally made me go all squishy on the inside! πŸ™‚ cause i’ve been there….was there last night, but instead of elmo, our is dora. It’s a subtle way of them teaching us that the way we do things might not be theirs, but theirs is ok too sometimes.

  11. ***Tears*** That is SO beautiful!!!! I think that is one of Autism’s gifts: We NEVER take moments like that for granted.
    Cymbie has had a speech EXPLOSION! She is starting to not just echo, but use speech spontaneously, appropriately, and functionally! I cherish every word that comes out of her mouth.
    We are both lucky and blessed to have kids that can speak and show affection. My heart bleeds for those Mama’s who struggle with those challenges. And I pray that none of us ever give up *HOPE*

  12. Beautiful, and one that we can all relate to in some way. Just yesterday, we sat on the sofa together. O was on his iPad, and suddenly – THUMP. His head was on my arm/ chest. I didn’t move for an hour (way too much iPad time, but oh well).

  13. This is HUGE! What a beautiful word picture you painted for us. I pray spontaneous affection to every parent of every person on the spectrum!

  14. How do you manage to do it every time? You can put into words so beautifully & eloquently what so many people feel & experience. Thank you for giving us all such a beautiful voice. On top of all that, I’m so happy for your everything moment.

  15. Yes. My E is almost 12 (!) and I still marvel at his spontaneous observations and dare I say almost typical functional speech. Each word feels like a gift, still. Enjoy!

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