Once a week, your occupational therapist sends home a carbon-copied progress report on a yellow piece of paper. Once a week, she tells me what I already know about you. You’re “atypical.” Of course, she’s talking about your meal-time behavior: The way most kids can chew and swallow a variety of tastes and textures and temperatures and you can’t. As for me, I’m contemplating the essence of you…the way you’re original.
We did our best to make meal time “fun.” Fun, for whom, we weren’t sure but it was just what the OT ordered. This once, I danced in wild circles to a backdrop of “Hungry Like the Wolf,” while I plated some apricots you wanted but couldn’t eat. You gave it a try. You gagged the way you always did and asked for more. Eventually, because it was the last resort, I handed you the bottle full of formula you preferred to the sippie cup you struggled to manipulate.
And after we were, each of us in her own right, sufficiently exhausted for the struggle, I set aside your tray, released you to the living room, and we danced. We danced and we danced and we danced to pop, hip hop, rockabilly, reggae, kids’ classics. Song after song, you threw your body into the music like the next goddamned Mia Michaels: feeling every note, moving with it, moved by it.
When Katy Perry roared, so did you. And as if to drive home the point that even if you never got to “typical” you’d still be totally ok, you turned to the tray full of apricots, directing your performance at your food. It was hysterical. It was heartbreaking. “R-r-r-r-r-r-roar.” And, hell, even if that yellow piece of paper declared you just like every kid for whom the act of eating isn’t scary or painful – even if declared Daddy and me just like every parent who could go ahead and take for granted the fact that their kid would get through dinner sans G-Tube or Heimlich maneuver – you’d be this: a force, a movement.
I could have watched this routine forever: Little arms extended, head rolling, body bent at hips, hands to floor, reach for the stars, laugh. The irony: You only stopped dancing to feed your Cabbage Patch doll a make-believe meal from a miniature bottle. “Baby, eat!”
At sixteen-months-old you were tossing around some 70+ nouns and a handful of adjectives. Eat: Your first verb. It might have been “walk,” or “jump” or “dance,” or “poop” but it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. You perceived your world as truly and deeply as someone beyond her year.
And I knew then (or maybe I just remembered) that you were extra special. I say it less because I’m your mother and more because it’s true. I hope that however your little life unfolds, that when you’re up against a formidable foe, when somebody tells you you can’t, when you wonder whether it’s possible, when you’re feeling kind of scared, when getting through the day is a freaking feat, that you always answer back with so fierce and mean a roar…that you move and you shake and you take your place, that you perceive that you are as deeply loved as all this.
Get it, girl.