Yesterday Maya was playing outside with another little girl from the neighborhood. After playing at the playground. the two girls decided to draw with sidewalk chalk. Within a few minutes the sidewalk in front of our house was full of blocks, faces, rainbows, birds, of every color, shape and size.
Maya has a significant fine motor skills delay often just draws faces or circles or lines. Plus her repetitive nature causes her to draw the same things over and over again and her (in) ability to focus causes her to give up instead of really trying to draw something that looks like a monkey, zebra or whatever the drawing du jour is. For a long time she drew only lines and circles with polka dots and called them giraffes, then little girls, then elephants And while I can easily tell what the other little girl's pictures are just from looking at them, with Maya you're never quite sure.
I was inside while this drawing on the sidewalk was going on, folding laundry in my bedroom with the window open and I could hear them talking. At one point Maya drew a yellow circle and the little girl asked her what it was and Maya told her it was a chick to which the little girl responded that it didn't have a beak, so Maya went, grabbed a piece of chalk out of the box and drew a beak.
The little girl, then told Maya that beaks weren't green so it couldn't be a chick. Maya shrugged her shoulders, flippantly said, well my chicks have green beaks and then went about her business drawing pink circles.
Last week our next door neighbor spent an awful lot of time here and even slept over. Everything went great and the girls got along really well but for me, being exposed to a 'typical' kid over such a long period of time, the differences between she and Maya were shouting out to me from all corners. Her ability to eat with a knife and fork at the same time, the ability to keep her hair out of her food, the ability to go upstairs, brush her teeth, wash her face without a hundred stops and starts and yet another discussion of how we don't like minty toothpaste. Her ability to get dressed in the morning with everything on the right way, without underpants twisted and hanging out. The ability to keep track of her own things, her ability to understand what I mean the minute I say it.
A lot of times seeing those differences makes me sad. It reminds me of all that Maya can't do and might not be able to do. Very often I hate going to kids' birthday parties for that reason, because you are faced with a room full of typical kids and those differences scream out. It often brings me back to her initial diagnosis and those feelings of loss, the loss of those dreams you have for your child winning trophies, getting diplomas and effortlessly doing what other kids can do without even thinking about it.
I eventually got through that mourning period and and I realized that hope is still very much part of our lives when it comes to Maya. Every now and again though I am faced with those feelings again.
Mostly I just try to focus on breathing until it passes and try to remember how far Maya's come and how even though the journey doesn't involve as great a distance as other kids, Maya's journey is fraught with obstacles, uphill climbs in first gear with the car slipping into neutral, flat tires and detours which sometimes take her miles out of the way.
I try to remember that it is not the destination which matters but the journey.
And a big part of me is happy that although Maya's motor skills make her drawings sometimes indecipherable, that there are no such restrictions on her imagination.
Maybe it is precisely because Maya's journey is not typical, because there are so many obstacles in the day-to-day, maybe that helps Maya's mind to roam freer, to a world where beaks are green and elephants polka dotted, to a world where she is not, at age 8 already conforming, already setting as her goal being like everyone else. And let's face it, already judging.
Don't get me wrong, I wish Maya didn't have to struggle so much to understand, to learn, to socialize. I wish development was something which was totally organic with her, where life was just a given that she would grow up and have the world at her feet, where every choice and option would be open to her. Where, as my father used to say to me throughout my youth, that her only limitation would be her own desire.
I want everything for her, I want life to be easier for her, I want her to be able to deal with her autism and achieve as much as she can.
But I also want those green beaks to stay with her for life.