May 24, 2011

El Baile de la Ranita

Mis amigas de Peru presentan: "El Baile de la Ranita"

Cool as a cucumber, my five-year-old girl walked up to the microphone and said those words.

And she didn't even sound like a Gringo.

Instead, she sounded so very much like her teacher--the beloved teacher from Columbia who has filled my daughter's days with patience and enthusiasm.

Wow, wow, wow.

My daughter, my baby, my torpedo of emotion and drama, not only stood in front of a HUGE audience in an unfamiliar auditorium, she listened intently for her moment to approach the mic. And she said her line perfectly -- in Spanish!

I looked at the other parents in that auditorium, with their cameras flashing and their extended relatives taking up way too many chairs. I know that they, too, were excited to see their children growing up before their eyes.

But how many of them appreciated -- really, truly appreciated -- what was taking place at that very moment.

They were witnessing little miracles.

Each time a child waited to take the stage and watched for the signal.
Each time a child danced to the music.
Each time a child sang.

Each time a child spoke .... every single word .... a miracle.

I know.

I know because my daughter's brother, my first-born, sat beside me in the audience, with no understanding of what his sister was doing, with no real appreciation of what it means to have an "end of the year show."

I know because my sweet boy cannot sing .... or speak.

I know because at the exact moment my daughter approached the stage, my seven-year-old son decided to bolt. I went after him, and then I stopped. I turned my back to my son with the hope that he wouldn't go far.

And I watched my girl.

How can a mother be filled with both joy and fear in a single moment?

You would know if you walked a mile in my shoes.

So many times I have, in a way, chosen Daniel over Olivia.

I have told her, "Just a minute, Olivia," when I have been pressing Daniel to make that extra effort -- extend his index finger to point, move his head up and down to signal his agreement, open his mouth and try -- just try -- to give me the closest approximation of a word that he can.

I have gone to her brother on the playground when Olivia wanted me to watch her. But Daniel was lost in a stim -- probably repetatively dropping wood chips -- and I just couldn't bare to see him trapped in his own world.

I have put her to bed when my mind was lost in the "what ifs" and the "what could have beens" -- when my heart was breaking and I was missing her father and wondering what in the hell became of the dreams I once had for my family.

Without a doubt, I have not given Olivia the attention she would have received if autism hadn't been in our lives.

So, in that moment, at the back of the auditorium during my daughter's end of the year school show, I turned my back to my bolting, non-verbal autistic son. And I watched my daughter.

She nailed it.

I knew she would.

I inhaled. I exhaled. I quickly stored the memory away in the little part of my brain that still works.

And then I turned to look for her brother.

He hadn't gone far. He was watching me. He was all smiles. It was just a game to him.

I grabbed his hand and brought him back to our seats. I wondered if there was anybody in the crowd who had noticed the child running away ... away from the words and the crowd and the music ... away from what must have seemed like chaos to him. Was there anyone who wondered if he might be one of "those kids" they hear about in the PSAs about autism? Was there anyone who watched me dart after him and questioned my sanity? (I question it myself, at times, and it certainly has been put to the test.)

Probably not. It was a pretty happy crowd, after all.

People enjoying their little miracles ...

My little miracle, my dazzling Olivia, groggily got out of bed as I typed this tonight. Without a word, she walked to the couch and fell back asleep. She is just inches away from me as I type these last words.

Every day, I look at the freckles on her nose, at the dimple in her cheek, at the eyes so clear and beautiful that they surely will some day make a man's heart melt.

If she only knew how amazing I think she is ....

I try to tell her. Every day. And she looks away and smiles, as if the compiments are a little too much for her to process. (I don't take compliments well, either).

I try to tell her because I want to make up for all the times I have turned my back on her in order to look after her brother.
I try to tell her because I worry about her spending her twenties and thirties on a therapist's couch, pouring out her heart about all the dysfunction she witnessed as young girl.
I try to tell her because I hope I can somehow help her turn into a healthy adult, with healthy relationships, and a healthy self-esteem.
I try to tell her because I want to somehow make up for my shortcomings as a mother.

I owe it to her, after all.

Because she has given me more in the past two years than I could ever possibly give to her.

Because it is moments like these ... Mis amigos de Peru presentan: El Baile de la Ranita ... that remind me of my blessings, and of the reasons to hold out for more.


  1. she nailed it. and she'll keep nailing it, i do believe.

    so much of this - you took the words right out of my heart.

    this is absolutely beautiful.