My girl was terrified of dogs. I don’t mean that she was afraid of them. I don’t mean that they made her nervous. I mean that she was TERRIFIED of dogs.
Her body would begin to tremble involuntarily at first sight. Her hands would contort into claws. Adrenaline would course through her body urging her to seek refuge in any way possible. She would climb the nearest human as a bear cub climbs a tree to escape a lion. No thought; just fear.
And then one day she decided that she wanted a dog.
Just. Like. That.
“We would bring him home,” she said.
The fear wasn’t gone.
But she had decided that something else was more important.
It took three weeks. Three hard, messy, torturous weeks. Three weeks in which we wondered if we’d made a horrible, horrible mistake. Three weeks in which she scaled furniture, climbed people, cried, shrieked and ran screaming from the dog.
Three weeks in which she, step by step by tiny step, grew stronger and more powerful than her fear. Three weeks in which she grew to love the dog that is now part of our family.
Because one day, she declared that she was ready.
And we believed her.
Brooke and Winston, 2010
Yesterday, we were at the mall. Sunday was Katie’s shopping day with Mama. Monday was Brooke’s. It was just the two of us. And she made a declaration.
“I will get Snow White earrings,” she said.
“What’s that, honey?” I asked.
She grabbed her ear lobes as if to help me understand. “I would get Snow White for my earrings,” she said.
The last time that we’d talked about earrings was two years ago when she’d worn magnetic ones for fifteen minutes and then *seemingly* lost interest in them entirely. But here we were, as if we’d been in the middle of a conversation about them all along.
Not believing that the words were coming out of my mouth, I asked if she wanted to get her ears pierced. “I will!” she said, the excitement vibrating in her voice. “I never had my ears pierced before! It will be my very first time!”
I explained what we’d talked about when the subject came up two years ago. That she wouldn’t be able to take them out afterward. That we’d have to clean them and take care of them every day. That she couldn’t touch them.
She was not remotely deterred. If anything, quite the contrary.
“I will have them all day!” she said as she walked. “And all night too. They won’t come out forever or ever. I will get my earrings today!”
I texted Luau.
Brooke says she wants to get her ears pierced.
Are you there? I think we’re doing this.
He wrote back.
Fingers crossed! Good luck! Be brave.
I couldn’t believe we were really doing this, but her excitement was infectious. I couldn’t stop smiling.
As we passed the fountain in the center of the mall, she pulled me toward it. “I will touch the water first and then go for the very first time to get my ears pierced,” she said.
I followed her to the fountain. I watched her drag her fingers every so lightly along the surface, then look around for what to do with her wet hand. I offered up my pant leg, which she took without a word.
“Wait!” she yelled. “I should get candy first. And then we will get my ears pierced for the very first time and I will have earrings.”
I pointed the way to her favorite candy shop, then followed as she led the way there.
I helped her scoop the candies into the bag – the gummy strawberries and cherries, then opened the drawer of lollies so she could pick a DumDum.
“Ooh!” she yelled as she ran toward Brookstone, before I’d finished paying. “I will go there!”
She headed straight for the bouncy chair, just like the one upon which Katie spent her life savings for her room. She plopped herself into it and began to bounce, a grin wrapped around her face. “Okay,” she said after enough bouncing, “now we will get my earrings.”
And so it was that we went to the Piercing Pagoda in the middle of the mall on Labor Day weekend and my girl said, “I will get my ears pierced and it’s my first time getting that!” to the nice lady behind the counter.
And so it was too that when a baby cried in the distance and Brooke shrieked in response and the nice lady said nonchalantly, “Oh, don’t worry, honey, it won’t hurt,” I explained that the shriek was not earring related but autism related and nice lady said, “Gotcha,” without so much as a flinch.
And so it was when I said, “I need to ask for your help with this. There are a couple of things we’ll need,” and then began to rattle off, “We’re going to have to do both ears at the same time. And she’ll need to know what you’re doing, so please, without too many words, just make sure to tell her what’s coming next and what she’s going to feel, but not with too much lead time,; just tell her right as you’re going to do it. Oh, and please try not to block her line of sight,” that the nice lady said with a grin, “I used to be a preschool teacher and I worked with autistic kids. You got the right person.”
And so it was that I kissed my girl’s head and thought, “No, SHE found the right person. Somehow she always does.”
And then my girl got her ears pierced.
Just. Like. That.
And it wasn’t that she wasn’t afraid. It was that she decided that something mattered more than the fear.
More and more I see my job as Brooke’s mama changing. Wait. Let me try that again. Not changing, becoming clearer.
My job, more and more, is to trust my daughter and to have faith that her journey, whether it is or is not immediately recognizable to me, is exactly what it is meant to be.
My job is to empower her with every tool that I possibly can and then to believe, not just in her ability to use them, but to know when the time has come to do so.
The fountain, the candy, the bouncing in the chair – every one of those steps was necessary, and every one of them was dictated by HER.
Every stop led her to where she needed to be and when.
I point the way and then I follow.
And then that last part.
The part about the nice lady behind the counter being such a specific kind of angel. How about that, huh?
That’s my girl’s journey. Every time.
And that’s what I need to remember.
My job is to live inside the faith that my girl will find the angels on her path.
And that they will be there exactly when she’s ready for them.