I adore teachers. I adore my children’s teachers. I am lucky enough to be in a position where I have an inside look every day of exactly what these teachers go through. It’s not always easy folks!
I am the mother of four. I have two sons who at their core, are good people. They will also send me to an early grave. I am also the mother of two incredible daughters. They are beautiful, inside and out. If you catch them on a bad day, they are not so beautiful. My 9 year daughter, Sofia, is my minnie me. Shy, sensitive, emotional and loves food. My 11 year daughter,Gracie, is feisty, set in her ways and was diagnosed with autism at the age of 9.
As a parent, especially the parent of a daughter with autism, a daughter who is not very vocal, and rather be by herself than be with anyone else, I pray for that “breakthrough” moment. I long to see the day when someone other than her siblings can just hit that spark and bring “something” out of her. I know it’s there. I also know it will take that special person who sees her as a little girl and not a little girl with autism to bring it out. Autism does not define her.
It brings me happiness to tell you such a thing happened last week….yet not in the way one would expect.
Allow me to set the scene. My daughters and I were at the school, Sofia’s school. It was the end of the day. As the school bell rang and classroom kids say goodbye to their teachers, and head home to their families, my daughters and I were in Mr. Stewart’s classroom.
Mr Stewart taught Sofia in the third grade. He is an amazing teacher who I fought hard for Sofia to have. His big personality is exactly what Sofia needed to help her break out of her shell. I volunteer in his classroom quite often, as Sofia has forbidden me to come anywhere near her class.
My girls and I are cleaning up the classroom, my perfectly imperfect dainty daughters who are total “girly girls” were all of a sudden intrigued when Mr Stewart asked them “Hey…do you guys know “Pull My Finger?”
Surely my girls would not be interested in THAT. No No No!
“What’s Pull My Finger?” they asked in unison. As I am standing there mortified in the corner, Mr. Stewart graciously gave them a clean version of what “Pull My Finger” is all about.
You would have thought he gave them the secret to Elsa’s magical Frozen attempts. Both of my girls, hysterical laughter. They wanted to know more, and even though it sounds like nothing, it was everything where Gracie is concerned. This was something she was interested in, this provoked an emotion. Other than her not talking, this, for whatever reason, put a smile on her face and laughter in her voice……..but still.
“Noooooo! What are you teaching them?!?!?”
“What any good Uncle should teach them!!!!”
This was now my cue to gather my belongings and my children out of there, in hopes that they would not pursue the “Pull My Finger” bit.
As we made the long walk down the hill to the street side parking, my darling daughters kept telling each other “Pull my finger.” After the tenth attempt Sofia exclaimed “It does not work Mom, nothing is happening!”
I asked myself “How much vodka do I have at the house?”
Gracie, as confident as can be, told Sofia “It only works on adults, duh!”
“Oh, we can try it on Dad!”
This was the part where I knew in the seven minute drive home, I needed to deflect. I mean I can see it now, Joe, my husband, asking the girls “How was school?” and they respond with “Pull my finger Dad!”
I thought I did a good job of deflecting. Asking both of the girls if they ate their lunch, if they have homework. Not so much. As soon as we pulled into our parking space, Sofia, as innocent as can be “Mr Stewart is such a good teacher, I cannot wait to tell Dad what I learned.”
And that was it.
Gracie and Sofia =1
Jen = 0
The girls about killed each other getting out of the car, seeing which one could get to Dad first. I, well, I stalled. There was a neighborhood cat outside that I may have spent a little too much time talking to.
As I make my way into the apartment, the girls are surrounding Joe. “Pull my finger Dad, pull my finger, Mr Stewart taught us this really cool trick but it only works on adults.”
The best part of all of this, is Joe is standing there, Gracie and Sofia on each side, both offering him their finger, and he is giving me “The Look.” We all know the one. Joe did not quite know exactly what he was supposed to say or do…….so he looks at me, he looks at me for “The Look.” The look that will either tell him to change the subject, or the look that will tell him “Yeah, there is no getting out of this one, just go with it.” I chose the latter, and because Joe is such a good Dad, he allowed the girls to “teach” him the Pull My Finger, bit.
Gracie and Sofia are loving it. They truly believe they are teaching their Dad something new. They are laughing so hard they are close to tears, which of course put a smile not only on my face but Joe’s as well.
You see, we do not have these moments often. To see Gracie, laughing, and happy, and feeling as if she learned the big secret of the universe, well, it was a special moment. She is typically so closed up. I know her mind is working but there is a disconnect. She will never let us in on what she is thinking……except in this moment, she knew it all. She had the world on her shoulders and she was loving it.
Joe and I finally had to tell the girls to “go practice Pull My Finger in your room, I bet it will work!”
And as they raced each other to their room, not wanting to turn on their t.v, not wanting to do homework, not shutting anyone out, all we could hear is laughter. Sweet, innocent childhood laughter.
Joe looks at me, I look at him, and he asked me what that was about. I told him the story, of how we were in Mr. Stewart’s class, and how Mr Stewarts does what he does best and made a connection with our girls.
And you know what happened after, that? Joe said to me “This is the first time Gracie has come to me on her own, she talked, she laughed, I knew she was happy.”
We had our breakthrough.