31 March 2011

to my daughter

Dear Em,

Sometimes, a lot like you, I don't have the words to say what I'm feeling. How much your tiny steps forward mean to me. How much you mean to me. And I don't know what it means to you when I tell you that I am so, so proud of you.

It only took one word tonight for you to blow my mind. We were done with supper, and you'd retreated to the living room to find the remote so I could turn on Word World for you. I started on the dishes, and you came back to the kitchen, your snack bowl in hand.

I asked the question I always ask: "What do you want, Em?"

Before you answered, I was already turning to the cupboard, because you answer that question the same way every time. After supper, you always want goldfish crackers. "Feesh!" It's a pattern, and since it involves you verbalizing a preference, we usually go with it.

I don't know how to tell you how I felt when you said "gwapes." Gwapes, not feesh. One simple syllable, but oh, beautiful girl, do you know what you did?

You answered my question. You didn't parrot my words. You stepped away from the routine that you cling to, and we had a meaningful exchange where you told me exactly what you wanted when I asked you. You talked to me.

One little word, and I feel like I'm flying.

Tomorrow starts Autism Awareness Month. And of course I want people to know all about you and what autism means in our lives -- the challenges you face, the resources you need, the ways you're the same as any other 5-year-old.

More than that, though, I want you to know that I get it. I know how hard you work to do some of the things that come so easily to other kids, and your cheerful determination amazes me. All that progress, Em, it doesn't go unnoticed. I am always beside you, cheering you on -- and probably crying a little, because that's just what moms do.

There's a Japanese proverb about perseverance that says, "Fall seven times, stand up eight." That is you in a nutshell: you fall down where others are already running ahead, and yet you pick yourself up and give it another try, usually with a smile on your face.

You're kind of amazing.

I love you, monkeyface.


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