It happened this weekend. I’ve been thinking we could go a little longer without her recognizing any sort of deficit or difference that would make her feel less than amazing. Our Kate, as many of you know, has a fairly strong self-esteem. She’ll be eight years old next month and for so long we laughed with her when she announced her superiority in topics like Ninja-fighting, cat-farming, masterpiece-painting and other number of things, to anyone that might listen. We revelled in her confidence because we knew she might someday be made to feel bad about all of things that make her so amazing. We knew that soon enough the world wouldn't let her hold onto that self-love as corny as it sounds.
It started with this simple sentence:
“One more time, Mama?”
Sounds harmless, I know, but when Kate says that little phrase to me or to anyone, it is really the first time in her eight years that she is noticing that she is not following along with the rest of us. By the time she decides to use this little phrase she has already asked you to repeat yourself enough times that she is tentative to ask again. This is new for Kate. The tentative bit, the nervous bit. She wants you to repeat yourself, but her hope is that you will say it again in a way she can understand this time and she won't have to keep asking. It is such a grown-up reaction and mixed with my pride at her maturity is the heartbreak that she might ever feel less than her perfect little self. Her little face, with its giant blue eyes and impossible blonde hair bears a look so unnatural to our Kate. It’s a combination of sadness and embarrassment and it's absolutely crushing.
Confusion is not new for Kate. Don’t get me wrong. It’s been the Hallmark of her version of autism for a very long time. Kate’s moments of confusion have, until now, been manifesting in anger at the other person or the situation because her confidence had not allowed her to believe she could be wrong, or lost. Her fortitude prevented her from accepting she was anything but top-shelf and we liked it that way. Sure, at times, those that didn’t know her might think she was due to be knocked down a few pegs, but I invite those people now to look into her eyes as she realizes for the first time that she is different and not everyone is going to be okay with that.
It’s a moment many parents of children with exceptional needs, will eventually go through. There will be some who reach it early, and some later, and some will wish this was their problem to have, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
So when she’s out and about and she says to you. “One more time?” please be patient and reassuring and help her understand because she’s working really hard to come to terms with her new reality and frankly, so are we.
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)