I like to think I'm a rational person. I also like to think that I have a grasp of common sense and apply said grasp in all matters. But despite my lofty abilities to do so, I often suffer from magical thinking. For anyone unfamiliar, magical thinking involves rituals or the avoidance of certain things to avert calamity. For instance, I have a horrible case of sports-induced magical thinking. This past October, when all lesser baseball teams were golfing and/or getting "medicine" from their non-English speaking cousins, I was breaking out in a sweat over what to wear while watching - or not watching - the World Series. Carrie had made me a lovely Cardinals shirt but the first time I wore it, we (and I say "we" because not many people realize I'm actually on the Cardinals roster) lost a game. Clearly if I were to continue to wear the shirt we would lose the World Series. I couldn't have that on my conscience. The shirt was worn only on travel days. When the Illini play, I check in on the game (either basketball or football) and watch to see if we: a. continue to lead, b. start a comeback, c. start to fall apart. What happens in the next 3-4 minutes of when I tune in determines whether I finish watching the game. If we're winning and we start looking like we've forgotten the basics, I turn the game off because clearly I've upset something in the universe and in order to win I must NOT WATCH. Crazy? Yes. I know. I am fully aware that there is no bat-signal associated with my ESPN Score Center app "favorite teams." Coach Weber does not get notified when I am wearing my orange and blue hoops as opposed to dangle earrings. I would hazard a guess that he wouldn't know the difference even if he were notified. And he certainly isn't going to change his game plan based on that information. It's crazy. I know.
But I'm not alone. Sports involves a veritable cornucopia of superstitions, religions, and rituals; and that's just high school sports. Throw ridiculous amounts of money and the word "professional" in there and the sports world gets exponentially more magical in its thinking. I don't know why others think like this, but for me it has to do with control over a situation I have absolutely no way to control and a desire to have a connection to whatever situation it happens to be at the moment. I may have overstated in the beginning......I'm not actually on the St. Louis Cardinals roster. I have no way to control the line-up, or more importantly what Tony LaRussa does/doesn't do with his hair. But I want to feel connected (eh, actually I'm going to distance myself from Tony's hair) and so I find ways to make that happen. Generally, this involves wardrobe choices but it makes me feel as though I means something, through nebulous and mysterious universal measures, to the Cardinals. If I don't hold up my end of the bargain, I will let them down. We are a team. Sure they make more and actually have talent, but I'm connected by virtue of a homemade t-shirt and therefore I'm important.
All this to say that things have been going really well here for Sweet Girl. I haven't said anything because I didn't want to upset the nebulous and mysterious measures that were being taken to make some really great stuff happen in that amazing and mysterious head of hers. I would say I'm sharing now because I've got my wits about me and realize that sharing this information will have no impact on her behaviors. Alas, it's not true. I'm sharing because I realize that if she crashes (and honestly, it's about time for some kind of a plateau), we'll be ok. If we fall, we'll get back up. And she deserves to have someone brag about her mad-Christmas carol skills. She's got 'em. Oh, yes she does.
So, she's potty trained. A HUGE accomplishment which she took on herself. One day, at the most inconvenient of times, she decided she would do it. I wasn't really needed for anything other than toilet paper control. We worked through the 45 minute pee marathons and the, ahem, bigger pottying issue and now we're pretty much on cruise control. Amazing.
Did I mention she sings? Right. Well our current holiday favorites are: "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," "Jingle Bells" as performed by Natalie Cole (please don't bother with the standard - we're sooooo beyond that), "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" as performed by Bruce Springsteen (kill me now), "Baby, It's Cold Outside" as performed by James Taylor and Natalie Cole, "Let it Snow!" as performed by Michael Buble, and "Joy to the World" as performed by Faith Hill. "Joy to the World" is my favorite to hear her sing. Mostly because she has a really sweet little voice, but also because "the Earth recede cookies!" I'm all for receiving the King, but if I can get some cookies with that so much the better.
She has started playing with dolls. I can not express to you how huge this is as a sign of her development. Most of her play up to this point has been scripted; she has reenacted Wonder Pets vignettes or Winnie the Pooh scenes. Now she is showing interest in functional play and authentic pretend play. This usually happens somewhere between 18 to 24 months in typically developing children. It's been a long time coming, but maybe that's why it's sweeter when she shushes me as she puts Snow White down for a nap. I don't care if we hit the milestones late so long as we never stop trying to hit them. My girl hit this one about two years after her peers, but she's been working all that time to get there. That is awesome. She is amazing.
And all of a sudden, her speech has taken a conversational turn. Before Sweet Girl used speech to make her needs and wants known in a very efficient manner. If a sentence wasn't part of the script then we would usually get two to three word phrases. Sometimes we would get one word demands. But now, she's started (albeit in a very introductory way) using speech to engage with us. For example, when I was dropping her off at her social skills group I could hear the nearby brook. I said, "I hear the water rushing." I was not expecting any kind of reply and if I did get one I would have guessed that it would be a word-for-word echo. Instead she cocked her head to one side, paused, looked at me, and said, "I hear the water too!" It was a brief and glorious exchange. However, nothing tops the other morning when she crawled into bed with me (she's an early-riser and a heat-seeker so I get a lot of company in the morning to help me wake up) and put her arms around my neck. I had been running errands the night before and hadn't made it back before she went to bed. I didn't think much of it - other than a sense of great relief that she'll allow someone else to put her to bed now and that there was someone else there to do it - and was pretty sure it didn't register with her either. But that morning she looked me in the (sleepy) eyes and said, "I missed you when you go to the store, Mommy." She missed me. She remembered she missed me. She told me she remembered she missed. It made my heart swell up so much that my eyes leaked. There was no reward for that for her. She wanted to connect with me. She wanted to share her feelings because she wanted to share. I would've never gone to the store again if she had asked me.
It's not all roses and rainbows. We have much work to do just to "catch up." These skills are emerging and a long way from being mastered in different social situations. I have no control over the situation. I have no control over how she decides to connect with me. But the only thing I could think while I said a fast and furious prayer of gratitude while my eyes leaked was: This is magical.