"Would you like to go to the bookstore today?" I asked Lilli.
"Only if just me," she typed back. Guess she didn't want any pesky siblings to tag along.
"Yes, just you and me. You can pick out a book and buy it yourself with your birthday money."
So off we went to Barnes and Noble. I don't think I've taken Lilli there since she was a toddler. This would be yet another experiment, but not as risky as the symphony. I was excited, because Lilli was going to pick out and purchase a book for the first time ever. It was her idea. Last week, Lilli had typed about wanting to "bi" (buy) a book. She also wants to pick out lip balm, but that will be another trip. In the last few weeks, Lilli has drastically improved with her typing. We are now having longer "conversations." She is telling us about her feelings, not just her needs and wants. After several half-started blog posts, I surrender to the fact that I can only skim over all of the stories and tell just a few. I think every day this past week, Lilli typed something so revealing and unexpected that I just shook my head in awe. She is a very special, sensitive girl.
Lilli was quiet as she explored the kids' book section. She walked silently through the different sections and stopped to touch a few books here and there. It was fascinating for me to watch. For the first time, I knew she was really looking at everything and trying to find something she wanted to buy, not just wandering aimlessly. She "shops" differently than a typical kid. I had the ipad but I was letting her check everything out before making her type. I followed her, observing what she glanced at or briefly touched. She found the Elmo section and picked up the same Elmo book that we have at home.
"Lilli, we have a ton of Elmo books. You should buy something that you don't already have," I suggested. I showed her a longer Sesame Street storybook but she pushed it away. Before we left the Sesame Street section, she reached out and grabbed the arm of a dad reading to his toddler son in his lap. Lilli reaches out to strangers everywhere we go. Sometimes people are nice and do not mind. Most of the time people are caught off-guard, and I gently take Lilli and lead her away. She does not understand these social "rules." Or maybe she is going by a different set of "rules." As I am getting to know Lilli's world, I am learning that she sees things in a very different way. She sees things I do not see.
After we had looked through every section, I pulled out the ipad and put it on a bench at the little "stage."
"Did you see a book you'd like to buy?"
"Yes." I asked her to tell me and she typed, "Frog."
We retraced our path and I held out various "frog" books that she pushed away. Finally we reached the science section and she stopped. In front of us were books about pets that came with small plastic animals in a clear tube, and one of them had a frog in it. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was the one. I pulled it off the shelf and she gave it a gentle tap. I wanted to make sure this was "the" purchase, so I gave her a few other choices. I showed her Ramona Quimby, Age 8 but she typed "No. Put back."
She was so interested in the little stage and benches that I let her explore for a few minutes before we left. There was a mom and her daughter sitting there reading. The girl was about Lilli's age. I don't get depressed anymore when I see kids her age. I used to. But now I just concentrate on who Lilli is. Not what other girls her age are like. I also do not make eye contact with people. It's easier that way for me, because there are so many looks, and they are emotion-filled. Sometimes I just want to blend in, but we don't. So I focus on Lilli and our mission, and I block the rest out. I can't care what other people think, especially now. I have to be a role model for Lilli. She crawled over to the mom and girl and reached out to touch their legs.
"That's ok," the mom said. I took Lilli by the hand and smiled, getting ready for us to leave. All of the sudden, Lilli got very upset. I led her to a low, round table and put the ipad in front of Lilli. This is what she typed while whining loudly:
"Hate how other people look at me."
She stumbled on the word "people," but I guessed after "p" and "e" and spelled the rest for her.
"Ok let's go," I said. We went to stand in line, which was the toughest part of the trip. Lilli whined and cried. I shushed her and tried to calmly encourage her while inside I was wanting the sweet, slow cashiers to hurry it up already. When we got to the front of the line (thank goodness) I helped her hand the money to the cashier. She let out a long, loud cry as we waited for the change. I looked at the girl and said "Thank you," and said "Ok Lilli, good job! Here's your new book!" When I tried to help her hold the bag, she pushed it away and cried.
As we pushed through the double doors out into the fresh air, I mumbled to myself, "Well, that was an experience." Too bad we had to stand in line to pay for the book. The rest of the trip wasn't so bad.
In the back of the van, I propped the ipad up and asked Lilli to tell me why she hates how people look at her. "How do they look at you?"
"Like they p" and she stopped.
"Think of how the word sounds in your head, and type the sounds you hear," I said.
"piht" she tried.
"Pity?" I guessed. (I think "piht" is a good phonetic try!) Yes, she knew the word. She has heard Jasen and I talk about this. About a month ago I was talking to Jasen about the difference between pity and mercy. I don't even know why we were talking about it. I am realizing that Lilli is incredibly perceptive and listens to every conversation. I told her to put a "y" on the end.
"Like they pihty me."
I hugged her, took a deep breath, and put on my strong mommy armor. "Lilli, there is a difference between pity and mercy. Pity is when people feel sorry but they do not necessarily do anything about it. Mercy is when a person feels hurt in their heart for another person and they want to help them. Sometimes they can help and sometimes they can't. Maybe people are looking at you with pity, and maybe it is with mercy. But listen, everyone has challenges. Sometimes they are on the outside, and sometimes they are on the inside. Most people have challenges that are on the inside, and you can't see them. Yours are on the outside. Other people see your physical challenges and they either want to help you, or they don't know what to do."
The silent ride home was heartbreaking. She stared out the window with a blank look. I watched her in the rear view mirror and finally decided a pep talk was needed. I told her about Carly, the girl with autism that types and inspired me to teach Lilli how to type. I told Lilli that she is going to make a difference in many peoples' lives too, because of her challenges and experiences. I pulled up Carly's facebook page the other night and showed it to Lilli. That girl is touching thousands of lives and inspiring so many people all over the world.
I think Lilli will one day, too. Actually, I think she already is.
|Lilli looking at her new book. Look who has quickly "stolen" her ipad in the background.|