What’s the last thing you say to your little ones before you turn out the light and leave them to a night of sweet dreams and a world of imagination? “Sleep tight”, “sweet dreams”, “see you in the morning” etc. Whilst there are lots of variants you can guarantee (hopefully) that your final words of the day will include “I love you”. And I’m sure most of you will hear it back.I say the same to my little man when he heads to bed. Our bedtimes can be long drawn out affairs but we still like to tuck him in, kiss him goodnight and tell him that he means the world to us. “I love you” I say. The words leave my lips every time with such hope, and I hold my breath. I can see the words land on kiddo’s ears, imprint on his heart. I so hope he knows how much we love him. And as wrong as it may be, I long to hear those sweet words back. Just once.
He does say them, quite often in fact, as he echoes the archives of YouTube and sings the Fisher Price jingles like a scratched record stuck on repeat. But those words don’t have the meaning that I’m searching for. The meaning that my heart and soul long for.
Kiddo is four next month. And I’d started to ask myself if perhaps my quest to hear “I love you” is just too much to ask. After all, kiddo has profound communication difficulties. And here I am asking for him to say a sentence (and not just any sentence, a sentence filled with emotion and feeling) in the correct context to the correct person. I think I need a reality check here. Verbal communication is not (yet) my child’s niche. It’s not his thing. So what do I do? What I’ve been learning to do for the last two years. Interpret his behaviour.
I decided to look for ways in which kiddo might be showing his love and affection for me. And when I looked, and I mean really looked, my eyes and heart were opened to messages of love he sends me every single day. They aren’t what you would expect to see from a neurotypical child, but from a child with severe autism they are really quite beautiful.
One in particular resonates with me often. When kiddo wants me near, or wants to connect with me, he doesn’t say “I love you” or run in for a hug. He takes my hand and places it on the centre of his chest. He holds my arm so tight and doesn’t let go. He needs me, the warmth of my hand and my calming safe presence. His actions are filled with an emotion that isn’t readable for most, but for me I see love in every movement.
I know how lucky I am to have heard my sons sweet voice. I’m privileged actually. So for now I’m going to put my desire to hear those words in a box, and pop it away. One day I’ll open it again when the time is right. But for now, I’m going to concentrate on interpreting your world, rather than expecting you to conform to mine.
P.S. I love you.
Thanks for reading,