18 January 2011

Joy to the world

(Originally posted on Dec. 26, 2010)

We survived a really strange Christmas at home on our own, just the two of us, for the first time ever. There was a tree. There were presents, cookies for Santa and lots of last-minute wrapping. But it didn’t really feel like Christmas – just a day where we ate a little more food than usual and felt no shame about staying in our pajamas all day.

Not being with the rest of our family didn’t bother Em, of course, because the concept of Christmas isn’t really there for her. She likes the tree and the lights. She loves opening her gifts. And she was especially appreciative of the cookies we left for Santa. But the rest of it, the expectation of being with family, the pressure of the perfect gift … none of that touches her.

It was just another day. Which meant that she was as she always is: happy.

I think for me, the beauty of Emma’s autism is simultaneously the worst part of it: the majority of the time, she’s in her own world, entirely unconcerned with what’s going on around her. It means she doesn’t need me to be happy — and it means she doesn’t need me to be happy. So while it allows her to be her own favorite form of entertainment, escaping to her room with my phone to fiddle with the apps I’ve downloaded for her or to sit in the corner with a book, it also means that a lot of the time, my attempts to draw her into an activity or a game are rebuffed — or more likely, flatly ignored.
It doesn’t hurt my feelings like it used to. Every day I spend with Emma helps me understand her better, and it also helps me focus on what’s important.

Life with Emma is so amazingly complicated sometimes, because I make it that way by getting bogged down in the worry and the details. Therapy. Insurance. Whether this preschool will decide, as the last one did, that her needs are just too special for them to deal with. If potty-training is a milestone we’ll ever reach.

And then she comes to me, with a book or a ball or a toy in hand, and holds it out to me. So I read, or throw, or play, and she laughs that perfect child’s laugh. No matter how long the day has been, I can always laugh with her.

She loves to be tickled, so last night, I sang her a silly song while she wiggled and wriggled. “I love you, boop boop boop boop boop.” After a few minutes, she ran away to catch her breath, only to come back and stand in front of me, grinning.

“I wuv oo, boop boop boop.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some perfect, glass-half-full Pollyanna. But moments like those remind me how very special the privilege of being Emma’s mom is.

Life with Emma? Simple: joy.

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