If you were to ask KayTar what Santa Claus gave her for Christmas, she would matter of factly state, "No. [nuh-nuh-nuh] Santa didn't give me anyfing."([nuh-nuh] is her audible pause.)
I might then step in and say, "Yes KayTar, remember your dress up trunk and your Disney Princesses?"
She would say, "No. [nuh-nuh] G (my mom) and B (my dad) gave me those fings!"
You see, KayTar does not believe in Santa Claus, at least not in the way most children do. She believes he exists. How could he not with his picture plastered everywhere and his copious appearances both on television and at the local mall? She does not, however, believe he snuck into our house on Christmas Eve and left gifts for her. Her explanation is much simpler and logical. My mother and father spent the night at our house on Christmas Eve, so they must have been responsible for the appearance of gifts.
364 nights a year the four of us go to sleep at night and wake up again to utterly normal giftless mornings. 1 night per year, my parents spend the night and in the morning suddenly presents have appeared out of thin air. The only variable in that equation is the addition of my parents, so logically they must be the catalyst for this differing outcome. Brilliant, no?
I have spent years worrying over her cognitive development. When she was still silent, I wondered if she would ever speak. When she began to speak, I wondered if it would ever be natural for her, or if she would simply parrot and label forever. When her vocabulary began to grow, I worried about her comprehension and cognition. Over the course of the past year, those worries have fallen away, one by one, and what has been left in their wake is an intelligent, well-spoken, beautiful little girl.
I don't know that I've done that transformation justice here in this space. The worries have given way to a pleasant silence that I reveled in. For once I didn't have differences to document or a condition to explain, I simply had a child who had, in one area of her development, finally attained much of what "normal" children attain, that and so much more. Then I realized you, all of you who follow her story, may not know that about her. You may not know what a bright child she has grown into, with razor sharp reasoning skills and a mind like a steel trap.
There was a moment in her ECI intake evaluation years ago that nearly knocked me off my feet, the therapist held up two animal flashcards and asked KayTar which was a dog. I expected her to do what she always did--nothing--but instead my silent toddler, my closed off mystery of a child lifted her clenched fist and knocked on the right card. My mind exploded into a thousand shards of light, she KNEW something. In there, under all the mystery and silence, she had learned something. Things were getting through to her, even if she wasn't getting through to us. She identified several animals that day and although her scores were well below her age level, when I called to speak with Josh, that is what I told him first. Our silent and slow baby, she knew something. There was so much more to her than what was readily observable, so much more than the doubts and fears. Every single day, we continue to be shocked and impressed by who that quiet little baby girl has grown into, her once imperceptible abilities have expanded beyond anything we ever thought would be possible.
On New Year's Eve, we had our friends over to play games and drink champagne. KayTar was up late, because she is always up late. We set her up in our room with Noggin, so she could calm down for the night and we could have a bit of child-free time. She tolerated it for a bit, but then decided she would much rather be a part of the action. She quietly snuck back into the living room and I called her over.
"KayTar, you have two choices. You can lie in bed quietly and watch a little bit of cartoons, or we can turn out the lights and you can go to sleep."
She replied, "No, no, no. Let me tell you something. [nuh-nuh-nuh] I can have THREE choices. One, watch TV. Two, go to sleep. Or three, play this fun game with you!" Then she widened her eyes and plastered a huge smile on her face. She knows she has to really sell the proposal.
After a few more rounds of extremely logical negotiations, tears, and an quick evaluation of the how-likely-is-she-to-vomit-vs-how-much-do-we-care scale...she won the debate and was allowed to watch the game for a little while. She wasn't awake when the ball dropped, but she still relished her brief victory.
"[nuh-nuh] Am I up right now? Am I watching you play this fun game? Did I have THREE choices?"
She does this every time she wins. It seems like disrespectful face-rubbing to an outsider, but for her, it is simply fact checking. She likes to be sure that is what actually happened. It is not maliciously motivated.
My friend L looked at me and said, "She's going to be brilliant, you know."
We reminisced about the child she was a year ago, sitting at the table with us on New Year's Eve, repeating everything we said and laughing at jokes she couldn't comprehend, mimicking both our words and emotions. Now here she is, fully herself with her very own words, logic, and emotions; our unexpected and most fervently desired gift having suddenly appeared out of thin air.