noteworthy normalcy
20 August 2004

When Damian was three years old it was relatively easy to come here to this journal and say, “Look! Look what he’s doing now!” His deficits were so defined then, so huge. A soft-spoken sentence to a stranger or a climb up the Jungle Gym of Doom was so striking, such a big step forward. But as he progresses further up the developmental ladder it gets harder to define those milestones. When he chatters and imagines and demands, it’s harder to point to this here, this thing, and say it’s still not quite what it could be, it still needs attention. Harder too, therefore, to point to that event there, and say, yes, that’s new and yes, that’s so wonderful and an accomplishment worthy of note.

Nevertheless. We’ve seen a few of the latter lately. They’re probably not noteworthy to anyone else, anyone who doesn’t live intimately with him, knowing his every quirk. But here are a few examples:

On Monday at Whole Foods, we were chatting about food and whatnot and maybe even occasionally being silly (who, me?) when out of the blue, Damian leaned forward and hugged me. “You’re a good mommy.” He’s said “I love you” plenty of times. But this was something different. An evaluation, a compliment, processing something emotional in his mind, wanting to share it because he knew it would make me feel good too.

While we were at Whole Foods, he wanted to try the baloney. Liked it. Not a surprise; Dan sometimes makes him baloney sandwiches. He also wanted to sample the ham. More of a surprise. So hard to get this boy to try anything new. But he liked it too, and declared, “I like cold cuts!” Heh. He also decided as we were leaving the store that he wanted a baloney-and-ham sandwich for dinner. We discussed our lack of bread, he settled on pita sandwiches. Nothing extraordinary there, he does decide things, though it’s always nice to see him being flexible about such choices, not just getting pissy about the lack of bread.

What amused me and delighted me happened later, about an hour after we got home. Damian came to me. “Mommy, you should make me dinner now. Otherwise Mr. Grouchy will come bother you and you know you don’t like that.” Said with a smile, but I got the point. And appreciated it. Damian rarely tells me it’s time for dinner. And to equate over-hungry with grouchy? To anticipate this emotional state and work to bypass it? This shows a kind of mental alertness, putting the puzzle pieces together and getting the right answer. This made me happy.

Later Monday night, I heard Damian singing as he was feeding the cats. “Doe a deer, a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun.” I chimed in, “Me, my name, I call myself.” He was shocked that I knew the song. Turns out he’s been learning it at his typical preschool; they’re going to sing it at graduation this Saturday. (Yes, this child gets not one but two graduations.) He told me all about how they’ve got these big pieces of paper with the words and pictures that go with the song. He was very pleased with the whole thing.

That was Monday. Tuesday I got to school to discover Damian sitting on the picnic bench next to his best friend, finishing lunch and talking about Legoland (his friend is going there next week). When Damian finished eating, he packed up his lunch, zipped his bag, and said, “Mommy, I want to show you something.” He took my hand and led me inside, right to an easel with a big sheet of oaktag with the words, “Doe, a deer, a female deer” written in neat lettering along with, you guessed it, a drawing of a doe. “This is what I was talking about, Mommy, see?” I saw. I saw that he was excited, that he wanted to share that excitement with me. That he remembered our conversation the night before, held it in his mind, and wanted to act on it, to show me something of that part of his life, the part without me.

This is what I’m talking about too. These things I describe, I wonder if you see them the way I do. Sometimes it’s seemed as if Damian has all the tools he needs, but that he’s still somehow not quite at ease with it all. His affect sometimes still feels a bit stilted, not quite fully integrated. But now I see a connectedness, a desire to share, a kind of ease in communication and thought process that delights me. He seems – dare I say it? -- like a regular kid. More and more so. He’ll never lose the quirky, unique aspects of his personality that make him him, that make us smile and laugh and hug him. But this growing ease and awareness, it’s a blessing. Another milestone, indeed.

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