18 October 2000
Yesterday morning Damian came over to the dining table while I was eating breakfast. He wanted me to read a new book from the library, Cats Sleep Anywhere. Okay, sure. Hop up, kid. So he sat on my lap, smiling at the cat asleep on top of the piano, at the conked out cat wrapped in a dress, at the cat draped over a dog house. Then he wanted the book again. Did he say "more?" Did he say "read," did he even say "book"? No. He whined.

"Do you want me to read the book again?" Whine whine whine. Not even a yes. Damn, kid.

So I read the book again. And again: whine whine whine. Who am I, to be ordered around by grunts and whines by a child who knows how to say book and again and a whole lot more besides? So after the third -- or was it fourth? -- reiteration, I insisted he speak to me. I coached him, I cajoled, but I stayed firm.

In a straightforward battle of wills between parent and two year old, the two year old will win nine times out of ten. They have the scream factor going for them.

So I brought him into his room, sat in the rocking chair, sang to him. No go. Mad kid. Wanted to hear his book but refused to speak the word that would make it so.

Finally I read -- a different book -- to him and all was calm once more. And I've learned my lesson once more. This child will not be bossed around. He'll talk when he's good and ready. I hate that he rarely chooses to verbally communicate his wants and needs. I'm sometimes amused being led around by the hand, sometimes amused by how he gets around the need for speech, but I so hate the incessant whining. I've heard you should say, "I can't understand you if you whine" but he knows I can and he's absolutely determined not to speak except when he damn well feels like it.

That was the morning.

Sometime yesterday afternoon I found Damian's toy flashlight in the fridge. I guess he wanted to make sure it would stay fresh longer. I put it on the window seat and forgot about it until evening, when he led me on a tour of all the dark rooms in the house. We walked into the bedroom and he said, in emphatic tones: "Dark!" Then into the study: "Darkness!"

I had an idea. Sunday night, after Dan had replenished the flashlight battery, Damian had had a wonderful time shining the flashlight beam on the walls of his bedroom and shouting out, "Moon!" So I brought him the flashlight for a repeat performance.

A child’s bedroom in the dark. The outlines of train tracks and stuffed animals, the shadowed poster of King Max cavorting with the Wild Things on the wall above a whitewashed toy box. A soothing place. The child says, "Look, the moon!" as he points to the dim circle of creamy light on the ceiling cast by the yellow plastic flashlight he holds in his fisted hand. The light travels down the wall to the floor and glides back up to the ceiling. "Jumping over the moon," he says, "and three moons." All phrases borrowed from our growing pile of books, but as he uses them to comment on the flashlight moon, they become his own.

He catches sight of me resting on his bed and clambers up to join me. The flashlight-moon slides over wave-caps of rumpled sheets and he murmurs, "And the moon sailed with him." He peers over the side of the bed, dropping the beam of light down onto the floor: "Why does the moon go down?" he wonders.

He shines it on the ceiling once more. We lie on our backs and gaze at the mock moon. He seems dreamy. He says (his current favorite quote): "Stars and crickets and moooon." Then he turns it on himself and he’s "shining like the moon." He brings it right up to his mouth. I tell him he’s kissing the moon.

He hands me the flashlight. I’m not quite sure what to do with it. I feel like a moon novice. I shine it on the wall, the ceiling, his face, my face. I shine it on the wall. He puts his feet up, right into the circle cast by the light. I tell him he’s dancing on the moon now. He likes that.

Damian is not like most other kids his age. He still doesn’t use words to communicate; rather, he plays with them like musical notes. He incessantly quotes from books, he labels objects when he feels so inclined, he sometimes comments on the world around him and -- very occasionally, and only when he damned well feels like it -- he asks for what he wants. I find it intensely frustrating at times like yesterday morning. I wonder why I can’t have a normal child, one who doesn’t speak in riddles but yearns to tell me about his day and allows me to see the world through his eyes.

But then there are times like last night, when he does invite me in. And there in the dark, with his moon quotes and the sailing flashlight beam, I start to understand the magic of his way of thinking. The musicality and poetry in his small head. My little moon dreamer.

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copyright 2001 Tamar