Always, every day I am hungry for connection with my girl.
I tell her things, sometimes excitedly, sometimes whispering in her ear. I watch her closely wondering if this will be the day I see understanding dawn in her eyes, emotion show on her face. She makes no sound, does not look my way.
But her hand often seeks mine.
My hands have become an extension of her. No longer my own, she uses my hands to speak. She takes my hand and leads me where she wants to go. She moves my hands to the refrigerator handle and toward a food item, she moves them to the toilet paper in the bathroom, to the door knob when it’s time to leave. She puts cheese, ketchup and box of popsicles in my hand when she wants to eat, the remote control for her nursery rhymes, and my purse when she’s ready to go. In public we do this strange body-walk-dance as she holds my hand and arm over her shoulder and across her chest. When she colors – which is every day – she puts a marker of her choosing in my hand and guides it to paper. And this is the best of all because it is her favorite thing and she is inviting me in to share it with her, create with her.
A study I read once called this autistic leading a “less desirable form of requesting.” Nevertheless it is communication and all communication is important.
So I let her lead me.
She has caused me to love our hands, hers and mine, because we can always find a way to connect through them. And like all women my hands do many things in a day, but this is most valuable.
A couple weeks ago we went out to lunch, just the two of us. Something happened – I don’t know what. She became very upset and before I knew it she had overturned the table in the restaurant, her plate of barely-touched spaghetti landing in a heap in the bench across from us. When I reached for her she bit my hand hard and it took everything in me not to cry out in pain and cause more of a scene.
We left immediately. At home I tried to talk to her, tried to tell her that I understood being upset and frustrated and that we were all working hard to help her find ways to communicate that, but overturning tables was not acceptable. In that moment I was the one upset, frustrated and hurt.
Without looking, she quietly reached for my hand.
Tears filled my eyes as I held back. I knew that to withhold my hand would be to reject her, cut her off. Words I wrote years ago came to mind:
“…how often I have removed my hand – cut off communication – when the Father wants to lead. The well-known Psalm 23 says “He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” How often do I miss out on those quiet waters because I refuse to follow, because I will not be led? Communing with God and taking His lead is not so complicated really. Maybe for starters, it just means we unclinch our fist and hold out our hand.”
I took my daughter’s hand again and she took mine and the only translation was love.