84: Twirl with Me, Mommy!

84: Twirl with Me, Mommy!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Twirl with Me, Mommy!

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.

~Wayne Dyer

My daughter Kylie’s favorite place to play is at the Pottery Barn Kids store in one of our local malls. Kylie goes immediately to the Madeline Play Vanity, sits on the little pink tuffet and admires herself in the mirror. She then finds the jewelry box display and spends the good part of an hour investigating the interior of the boxes. She opens each one slowly as though they contain a great secret. The treasure within is a beautiful, tiny ballerina that twirls in perfect time to the music.

On this particular day, my daughter is mesmerized by these simple wooden boxes, and I silently observe as she studies the ballerina, takes a step back, places her sweet little baby arms in the same position as that of the ballerina and slowly begins to turn. I try not to make a sound, as I don’t want to break the beautiful spell of the moment. My precious daughter is in a world of her own, pretending she is that sweet little ballerina. I feel tears pool in my eyes and I choke on the stifled sobs that gather in my throat.

I realize then that we are not alone. A small group of ladies, employees and customers, have gathered. A hush falls over us and, as I glance at their faces, I realize they are feeling the same tug at their heartstrings. They, too, are taking a little walk down memory lane. When they rouse from their reverie and realize that I have noticed them, they comment on how beautiful Kylie is and how adorable she looks as she dances to the music — so innocent and oblivious to the audience that has been watching her.

What they don’t know is that my Kylie experiences autism. They don’t know all the work, steps and conditioning it has taken to be able to even approach a mall, let alone ride an escalator or elevator. What they don’t know (at least not yet) is that when I tell Kylie that it is time to go, this sweet ballerina will morph into someone entirely different — a very loud and unhappy someone. A someone who most likely will lie on the floor and scream because she cannot process why we can’t stay. She doesn’t understand what it means that the store is closing. Her communication difficulties are a barrier to expressing appropriately how she feels.

I have a decision to make. Do I take the time to explain to these ladies, who are admiring my daughter, that she experiences autism so that they will understand when they see the transformation take place? Or do I protect my daughter’s privacy and let them think that she is a spoiled, horribly misbehaved child and that I am a terrible mother. I know I’m not supposed to care about what others think, but I do — I always do.

Just then, Kylie catches my eye and reaches for my hand. “Twirl with me, Mommy?” she asks and how can I deny her? I gather her little fingers in mine and we twirl faster and faster. The struggle of what I know is to come falls away from me. I feel less overwhelmed. I feel like I can breathe. Kylie begins to giggle and I feel a smile tug at my lips. Now we are laughing together and this mommy is getting dizzy. We twirl and twirl and twirl! Kylie could keep spinning for much longer but mercifully, she gives me a break. What FUN we have together! Can we freeze this moment? Do we HAVE to endure a transition?

Oh, what I would give to stop the clock. Right here, right now with my baby’s hand in mine. The autism seems so far away. I inwardly plead for more time. I capture the memory in my heart. I savor the moment. I indulge. I enjoy!

“Again! Again? Twirl again?” she asks, with a sparkle in her eye and a giggle in her voice.

“Yes!” I reply. “Yes! Sweet Kylie, let’s twirl again . . . and again . . . and again. . . .”

~Amy L. Stout

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