My five-year-old daughter has been talking in her sleep a lot lately.
And what she says sometimes worries me.
As if I need more to worry about ....
Just a few minutes ago, as I sat on my couch with my lap-top and Cheezits, wide awake despite my fatigue, I heard her scream out from her bed:
"I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this."
Geez. What in the hell is she dreaming about?
I think about the possibilities.
Is she thinking about school?
I enrolled her in an excellent, but hoity-toity private kindergarten this fall, after three years at a preschool where the primary focus was on being a good friend and helping those who need it (i.e. the students in the class who are on the autism spectrum).
Now she sits each day in the world of "perfection." Her classmates probably have been drilled with phonics flashcards since the day they started eating whole foods. Their mothers pull up to the school in Escalades and Lexus SUVs,in full makeup despite the fact that they are wearing Nike gym clothes -- probably headed to pilates. And my poor daughter marches in with her flip-flop-wearing, barely-holding-it-together-mother who might have forgotten to brush her teeth the night before.
I threw her into this new, challenging -- "Let's all read from our readers even though we are barely five-years-old" -- environment. I put her there even though I have not given her the attention she deserves, even though I have not taught her the things I would have if I had been living a different life -- a life untouched by autism.
Sink or swim, Olivia.
Is she thinking about her brother?
My darling daughter is two years and two weeks younger than her brother.
But she surpassed him developmentally when she was just ten-months-old.
And, every day, I see the signs.
I see the signs of a sister who loves her brother as much as she worries about him.
I see the signs of a girl who understands that her brother is different and disabled, and isn't at all ashamed, but is sometimes very annoyed.
And who wouldn't be???
Why should a five-year-old girl feel the need to race after her seven-year-old brother if he ventures down the aisle at Walmart?
Why should she tell me in the middle of a department store, "You have GOT to hang on to, Daniel. We can't lose him!"
Why should a five-year-old be telling other children about "autism," in situations where even her own mother frequently struggles to find the words.
It is not fair. It is not right.
But it is her reality.
Is she thinking about me?
Does she realize just how essential she is to her mother's happiness?
Does she know that she is the ONE THING that has kept me from completely falling to pieces the past two years?
Does she know that, without her, I don't think I could get out of bed each morning?
Does she realize that soemtimes when I hug her before she drifts off to sleep, that I can barely bring myself to let go? That I put my face next to hers and take in the very smell of her, the very feel of her cheek against my own?
Oh, dear God, no wonder she says these things in her sleep .....
I have to do better. I have to try harder...
To make her see how beautiful she is.
To make her understand that my feelings of anxiety and panic and sadness have NOTHING to do with her.
To make her feel at peace.