Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. -William James
Em and I had a moment tonight, sublime in its simplicity. She'd scampered off to bed after supper, totally skipping the clean-up routine. So I followed her with a damp washcloth, amused at the evasion tactics.
She was already under the covers, face pushed into the mattress, shoulders shaking.
"Emmmmmmma," I whispered. "Give me your face!"
Giggling, she flipped over to face me. "Oh, Mommy!"
It was such an appropriate, conversational response that I froze for a second before swiping the washcloth over the ketchup on her cheek.
"Oh, Emma," I said back to her, matching her tone.
And then it was a game. "Oh, Mommy!" "Oh, Emma!" Both of us laughing, smiling. Both of us in the same moment.
She nestled her head onto my shoulder and snuggled close, content to let me hold her.
The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. -Benjamin Disraeli
My girl is happy. She's a four-foot-tall bright, sunshiny day with dimples. She is a joy to be with, a fact that has made daycare and preschool somewhat easier for a nervous mama. I know she's going to be liked.
But liking her is not the same as understanding her, as believing in her, or as seeing past all the complexities to the simple truth of her potential.
She had a teacher once who was supposed to get it, who should have been able to at least scratch the surface. Who shouldn't have let her sleep through the only time she had devoted to helping her bridge the developmental gaps. After two years, I think that teacher would have remained convinced that I was lying about Emma's ability to count to 10, because she didn't do it on command, but for the time Emma sang out her numbers while the teacher's back was turned.
I kid you not, that parent/teacher conference involved the incredulous phrase: "She does know things!"
You can imagine my relief when we had a new teacher the next year, and then my amazement when I learned that she was certified in "getting it" -- our first encounter with a BCBA.
I was boggled at how quickly things changed, how the seemingly small things she focused on with Emma (showing my picture when I changed the routine by picking her up instead of sending her on the bus, for one) made such an impact.
During Em's time in her class, I started working toward securing insurance that would make full-time ABA possible. And then the news that due to funding cuts, Em's beloved teacher was going to have to find a new position. She did, and we said our goodbyes -- but only temporarily.
A few months later, on Em's first day of ABA, a familiar smiling face was there to greet her. And lucky us, she was the one in charge of Em's programs. That sounds too clinical for what I witnessed. Really, she was in charge of helping Em shine.
And for the past year, it has been magical to watch my daughter flourish. We said goodbyes again this week, because talent and compassion and cheerful determination are all qualities that get recognized, and people with those qualities are asked to do bigger things so they can help spread the shine.
I know Emma is still in the best place she could be, with people who care so much about helping her do her very best. I know her progress is going to keep overwhelming me.
Still. We'll miss her.
I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. - Tracy Chapman
You, I should say. We'll miss you. Knowing you might see this made me want to reach, one more time, for the words to tell you what you've meant to Emma, and to me.
I will never stop being grateful that Emma found her way into your classroom. That first day, you knelt in front of her, looked in her eyes, and waved. You were on her level from the very first minute you met her.
You changed her life, and that's not even an exaggeration. You changed her life.
Because of you, she has more words to tell me how she feels and what she wants. She has life skills that give her dignity. She has tools to help her handle situations that were once impossible.
I always, always believed in Emma. And then you did, too.
Thank you seems insufficient. But I think you know how deeply I mean it.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. -Dr. Seuss