It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a post like this. I find that cause for celebration. But yesterday something difficult happened. For once almost as difficult for me as it was for Chickadee.
Yesterday my Chickadee had her feelings hurt.
I’ve gotten used to the people who are uncomfortable. I’m used to the fact that they try to assuage their discomfort by comforting me. I understand it even. I’m that person upon a miscarriage, divorce, death, or other life difficulty when those things happen to people I care about. I want to comfort my loved ones, not express the horror at what has happened and thereby make their day, week and life worse. That makes it about me, and I don’t want to have people comforting me about their own horrible problem. I’ve had that done to me too many times, and I wish it inoculated me against doing it ever again.
Chickadee is accustomed to it too. She waits now for me to make some wise crack about her “not being such a sweet spirit, because Chickadee’s so sassy.” or “good thing Chickadee isn’t like that. She’s so smart she’d go crazy.”
People don’t know what to think of me.
That’s okay though, it makes Chickadee smile in an uncomfortable situation. I’m a slave for that. Anything to help her get through the stares on the way to her little havens of acceptance.
But yesterday after I dropped her off and hurried to add thickener to her bottle of formula-so she can drink it without aspirating-something happened. Something I was naïve enough to believe wasn’t happening to my Chickadee.
Chickadee had a visitor sitting next to her.
When I came back, my little Chickadee had her lower lip pushed out. Her eyes were swimming with tears. I whispered, “Here’s your drink.” She glanced briefly at my eyes, which is how she acknowledges your existence. I was worried immediately that something was wrong.. I sat next to her and whispered, “Are you okay?” Chickadee bent over, till her head almost touched her knees. That’s how Chickadee says no. Loudly.
So I sat next to her and watched. I tried to comfort her. She was extremely agitated, and when that happens Chickadee tends to get louder. She has a mouth compulsion-much like her constant hand movements-which probably sounds like someone getting their mouth ready to play a brass instrument. Like the piccolo trumpet maybe? This compulsion gets faster and louder when anxious. The visitor was plugging her ears.
The visitor was staring. The visitor was leaning away. The visitor has been a visitor 4 or 5 times a year. For over two years. But this visitor seems to have become adept at expressing dislike. Chickadee rocked harder. I got out her binkie, not even thinking about the visitor. I just wanted to comfort my Chickadee. The binkie stops her oral compulsion, and I was only thinking in big parental fix-it words.
She welcomed it, but she hated it. Chickadee is more aware of her peers than I am. She tried to turn a little bit toward me. But the visitor saw it. The visitor leaned in.
“She’s really smart.” I said. “She can understand what you say.” The beautiful cherubic face of the visitor was fleetingly shadowed by something akin to shame. I’m not sure a four-year old (or five maybe) can fully understand the impact of that situation. I’m certain actually. Vicious is the only way to describe it, yet how do you convey that to such a young child.
Shortly afterwards, Chickadee and I escaped to “go potty” and we both regained our composure. Chickadee did not want to have her drink early and hide out on the foyer couch. She wanted to go back to her class, her teachers. I’d bawled to her teacher in the hallway, and I think Chickadee was afraid I was going to drip tears and snot on her. The visitor had to leave early, and the teacher had a word with the parents because they do come fairly often. But, before that happened I wheeled my brave little Chickadee in to sit on the other end of the row. Next to a real friend. One that took her hand, and looked into her eyes and welcomed her back.