14 September 2011

How it is

She is the girl scampering around the playground, that smile seeming permanently etched on her face. She looks like every other kid playing. She swings, she climbs, she slides - and then, halfway up or down, the illusion shatters. She stops, halting her progress to stare into space, looking at something I can't see.

A line forms behind her - other kids, impatient to continue their fun, not able to see what's holding them up. They wait. They grumble. Sometimes they roll their eyes.

I am the mom that's never far away, the concern always showing in those moments where Em's world seems to pause - and the rest of the world is forced to follow. I encourage her to keep going. I make sure the waiting kids don't crowd or push her, but I try not to intervene. Sometimes I have to force myself to let the moment play out, because Em's not doing anything wrong - but neither are the kids who don't understand.

Then, Em gets un-stuck, and everything goes on.

I had to remind myself of those many moments at the park last week, after we got home and pulled into the garage. I unbuckled Em's car seat and held out my hand.

"Come on, babe, let's go eat."

She scrambled out of the seat immediately, but instead of climbing out of the car, she turned away and bent down to the floor.

"Em, let's eat supper! Come inside with Mom."

During our drive home, the stuffed animals we (always) travel with had made their way to the opposite side of the car, wedged under the driver's seat. With her back to me, Em dislodged them, returning them to their rightful place beside her seat.

"Okay, you got them! Good job! Let's go in the house now."

She was crouching again, her back still to me. Now there were books on the floor. Those, too, she carefully replaced. My encouraging smile was starting to feel forced, and then she slid back into the car seat.

"Sweetheart ... please."

Every time we're in a store and a cashier hands Em a sticker, she wears it out of the store on her shirt, but once we're in the car, those, too, have a place. Stickers go on the back of the passenger seat, so she can reach forward and touch them while we're tooling around town. The Target dog was starting to peel off, and so she leaned forward, carefully patting it smooth.


She turned to me then, took my hand and climbed out of the car with a smile, her work done. Everything was where it needed to be for the next car trip.

Next time, I won't begrudge my girl the 30 seconds it takes for her to shift her world back into place.

01 September 2011

a good, good life (part two)

So ... this isn't soon. It's not reasonably close to soon. What happened to August? It fled before I finished talking about July, that's what. But before I go back to that, here's the latest in the string of adorable stories about Em is her newest song, described by her therapist as "The Goodbye Song."

"What's The Goodbye Song?" I asked.

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye

I spent the next evening trying to coax her into singing for me. And finally, while she was flipping through a book this morning, curled up on my bed, I heard a little voice singing very, very quietly.

Na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye

I whipped out my phone, desperate to capture it on video, and managed to record an even quieter version. Like all my moments with Em, I wanted to sear the sweetness of this one into my memory. Just like our hot July day.

We left the museum with me flying high on our success there, and our next stop was a splash park. I got lost. There was construction. But I called for backup, and we finally ended up in the right place, trudging down the sidewalk toward the water.

More water than I'd imagined, and the place was busier, too. At her first glimpse of the water, Em began to bounce. There were a few dozen kids giggling and splashing ... all in their bathing suits. I glanced at Em's tank and denim capris, shrugged and slipped her crocs off.

And she was off. It was one of the few times in a strange place where I wasn't worried about her wandering. Where there is water, there is my girl. She stood on top of one of the jets of water and giggled as it soaked her. She ran her hands through the spray, watching the water rush through her fingers.

A man standing beside me watched me watch her for a minute. "No bathing suit, huh?"

I explained that we were just visiting; I hadn't known she'd need one. He glanced at me strangely. "On vacation ... and you came here?"

We did, and six hours into our mini-getaway, I knew it was the right choice. Even if the day fell apart at that moment, I'd seen a week's worth of smiles out of Em already.

Finally it was time to go, and I coaxed a reluctant, waterlogged girl to come sit on the grass and dry off. I didn't care that her clothes were soaked, but the capris had worked their way down ... past the diaper, which had absorbed all the moisture it could and had swollen to three times its normal size (like one of those awful, awful commercials). There was no other way to get the pants back up over her hips, so in a proud parenting moment, I picked Em up by her pants and wiggled her.

It got us to the car, at least. We walked hand-in-hand in the late afternoon sunshine, and my smile was as big as hers.

(Looks like a three-parter after all. This time I won't say 'soon' for the follow-up.)