I often look down at you to see you staring at my face, probably watching my mouth move as you hear my familiar and loved voice, waiting to listen to the replies of the other voices you know and love. You may be memorising the features and lines of my face, like a map. At just ten weeks old, I guess that you probably know my face and the way it moves and dances; achingly beautifully well. I see you and I sense you there as you love and adore me.
When I lie next to you and when I have you close to me in a cuddle or in wearing you, I smell your baby smell and my skin meets your baby skin. This is calming to me, and I suppose it is calming to you, too.
Oftentimes, your eyes are drawn to the large red flowers of our new wallpaper – the wallpaper your daddy stood on a ladder to smooth down, with laptop open to the Bunnings DIY video that made it look so much easier than it was. That seems a lifetime ago now, back when you were kicking within me and while I stood, hand on belly, watching him and smiling as I thought of you. Sometimes I see your eyes flicking from red flower to red flower – an entire wall of tantalising visual stimuli! Then, you get tired but those flowers are so hard for you to look away from. We help you of course, when we think you want to rest, by pulling you to us and to the smells and feel of those you feel safe with.Sometimes, our eyes meet and we smile at one another. Often, I talk and you listen. Sometimes you talk, with your cooing and small squeals, as I listen and make faces that seem appropriate to what you’re saying. This delights you.
Other times, you avoid our gaze and instead look with joy, to the ceiling. To the ceiling fans. You smile and coo and kick with glee when you see one. We turn them on and off for you, and to different speeds. Each speed makes different noises, some loud and clanking and others smooth with occasional bumps and squeaks. Each room’s fan sounds different and turns in a different light and height. We tie scarves and blankets onto the fans for you, and your astonished and fascinated face watches the colours spin. You seem particularly inquisitive and enquiring when the fan is off and there is a scarf simply hanging down off of it. We show you fans in other places too, and your surprise and delight is a joy to behold.
Many days, you delight in cuddles and skin contact, with soft voices around you but not at you. On these days, you often prefer not to look at our eyes at all, unless to examine while we look elsewhere. We respect this; we honour your preferences and ways of learning and interaction. On these days and in these times, you hang out on our bodies, gaze over our shoulders, snuggle tight in a wrap, or kick in the bath. Your selective eye contact is your journey and your right. It’s not a big deal; it’s just a preference. I long to drink in your features and I am drawn to your smiles, but I give you the social space you seek.
We refuse to shove our faces into yours simply for developmental beliefs that would yell that this is the only way to have “real” and “authentic” interaction. Interaction and connection have many costumes and infinite definitions. While others would see it as their role and their right to ‘rewrite’ or ‘mould’ or ‘determine’ the social preferences of babies and young children, we disagree. Your clear preferences are your right to work with. It’s not my right to decide what’s best for you when you are clearly telling us this yourself.
Perhaps one day you will marvel along with your daddy and I, at the people sitting on blankets in the city gazing into one another’s eyes and filming it, thinking that this is a microcosm for saving the world and for reconnecting humans to one another. We are all human after all, these people say. I suppose they don’t know realise many ways there are to love. Conditional connection is beside the point, surely.
When we go out, you are so alert. Your head is up and your eyes wide. You look in many places all within a few seconds. You seem to always note where we are, what it’s like, who’s there, whether there is a fan on the ceiling and whether the walls have interesting pictures to look at. Other babies seem cocooned in the bubble of their carer, looking into their eyes or the eyes of another person nearby. These babies seem to live for the social experiences of gazing into peoples’ faces. These babies are gorgeous and perfect. And so are you, little one.
I wonder who you’ll take after. Will you be gangly and blue eyed, like your big sister? Will you be flighty and fast, your words and thoughts unusually quick, like your big brother? Will you be sensitive to change, prone to anxiety, and overwhelmed easily – like your other brother? Will we be able to pass on the hundreds of trains and dinosaur toys, and dinosaur books, to you? Will you be as passionate as your siblings about these things? Will you be just as passionate, but about something else? Will you have dark hair, like me? Will you surprise us with intricate memorised details retained for years after an event? Are you autistic, like me? Will your Executive Functioning ping pong and zig zag? What will your speech trajectory be? Will you use AAC? Will you have an affinity for numbers and letters? Will you prefer to learn about other things? What will your sleep needs be like? What will your physical developmental trajectory be like? Will you like the beach? Will you find it soothing as I do, or will the sand and the heat make it anything but, like your dad? What will your sensory needs be?
I can only guess for now, seeing clues that allow me to theorise – but in time, I will see more. I am excited, knowing that I have all this knowledge to gain about you. I am happy, waiting to see you unfold and grow.
Oh, sweet Neurodivergent child of mine, how blessed I am to have you.
And so, treasured little one, I wait. I wait and watch and marvel. And as you grow, the beautiful intricacies of your brain (for all brains are beautiful and intricate) will reveal themselves to me, at least a little. It won’t be more beautiful because I accept it or for understanding it – it is beautiful regardless of how it is perceived or whether it is understood. But I selfishly wait for what I will see of it. I’ll enjoy you and your ways, precious one. And ableist people will say what a good mother I am for loving you. But, I already know better than that. The honour is all mine.