This morning I stood in the doorway and cautiously watched Bailey put on the new shirt she picked out of her closet. I listened to her speak, then repeat to herself everything in a whisper. This is something she does constantly, like “rinse and repeat” when you’re shampooing, only with words. I’ve come to expect it. I’ve also come to expect what happened next. She got one arm in a sleeve and a scowl appeared across her face.
“It’s uncomfortable,” she said.
“Just put the other arm in and let’s take a look.” I said, although I don’t know why. I knew how this would end. The sweater and I were going to lose this battle.
She put the other arm in and stood up. It was a beautiful sweater on her. It had the layered look; white long-sleeved shirt underneath with a short-sleeved sweater over it with grays, red, pinks and whites. It had little pockets at the bottom and a drawstring belt with little puffy balls at the ends.
But I knew how it would end. I knew how it would end the minute I bought it. Sweater material. Seams on the upper arm and upper chest. A drawstring belt. But it was my last ditched effort to think outside of the wardrobe box. I didn’t even have enough faith in this sweater to discard the tags. They were placed knowingly on my dresser after I cut them off. There have always been the outfits in the past that I purchased for her, thinking how adorable they were, but they hung in the closet for the entire season until they moved on to Bailey’s older but smaller cousin or Goodwill because she refused to wear them.
There have been such battles over clothes in the past. Over shoes too. The few times I stood my ground, swearing that I would not allow the adorable outfit or shoes go to waste, I’ve ended up getting a call from the school that a shoe was thrown across the room and Bailey was walking around barefoot, or that she was undressing in front of everyone. Clothes shouldn’t be this hard though. I myself have always been drawn to comfort over style. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to look cute but I’m not going to walk around in 3 inch hills, a tight skirt or some crazy, asymmetrical blouse just because someone says it looks good. So I have come to terms that only yoga pants, leggings and basic, blingless shirts will have a place in her closet. I have come to know what to expect and what to plan for.
I have proudly dubbed myself Bailey’s Pre-Planning and Expectation Specialist. I know as grumpy as heading to school makes her, there is a spot in the road leading to her school that gives her a “tummy tickle”. So I will speed up and we will sail over it, leaving our hearts in the air, just so I can hear that giggly exclamation, “Whoa!” and look in the rearview mirror to see those eyes wide as melons. I have come to expect extra time added to any trip out and about during the cold months where there is a jacket involved because the jacket will come off when she gets in the car and she needs a few minutes to get it back on before we exit the car. I know that if the seat belt is twisted in any way she will struggle back there as if trying to escape a snake’s coil. Being in a rush is futile when she is with me because she will move all the slower if she senses it. A hiccup will inevitably surface and a meltdown will follow if I try to get her to push through it.
As I mentioned earlier, each sentence she speaks she will immediately repeat in a whisper. I listen and wait for it before I respond.
I’ve come to expect that even with the charts posted in her room listing every step she needs to take in the morning, her executive functioning skills are just not there and I will still have to remind her to move the toothbrush around and to make sure she’s not putting her underwear on backwards.
I know that even though one of the things I love most about my husband is his ability to pull me out of the foulest of moods with laughter, his attempts to do the same to Bailey will only result in her screaming bloody murder. When the first utterance of a tease towards her comes out of his mouth I tense up and squeeze my eyes shut knowing what will follow.
I know to expect at least three meltdowns that involve flailing arms and grunting and kicking and screaming during a playdate because even after going over all the rules and all the expectations and all the strategies to handle frustration, there will still be occasions like her stuffed cat getting accidentally locked in a room or misplaced in a very large house, and all the strategies we reviewed were forgotten before we walked through the front door.
I know to expect that on rainy days, if we go anywhere there is hard flooring, she will become very agitated because of the sound of her wet shoes squeaking as she walks.
I expect that when music is playing her body will be moving.
I also know that the meer mention of homework will result in the grunting and breath-holding and the tensing up. I know that humming will follow if I’m saying something she doesn’t like or if I’m boring her. I also know that she hums when she is happy, or when she is concentrating.
I have come to expect that when she is excited she will tightly wring her hands together and tense up her jaw. I expect hand flapping when she’s anxious and pacing around furniture when she is thinking.
I know when she is expected to do anything in unison with a group, for example a performance with her class, that I can absolutely forget her doing what everyone else is doing. She will face the wrong way, she will do the wrong movements, she will invade her neighbor’s personal space as he or she tries to perform, and she will walk away from the group when she is supposed to stand close to them. She marches to the beat of her own drum. Always has. Always will. But I just keep the camcorder rolling. Because that is Bailey. And I don’t want to miss a moment of her.
I have come to expect that I need to adjust my expectations so I’m not trying to force her into the mold of who I think she should be. Of course I want her to learn that she has the same rules to follow as everyone else. But I also have learned to appreciate her quirks as part of who she is and not her way of aggravating her mother. She may never be the child who works tirelessly on a school project on the weekends or jumps at the chance to get her homework knocked out. But she is going to beg me to play with her and snuggle with her. Who could complain about that? She’s not going to be the kid who is always shy and quiet. But leaders never are. She may never jump at the chance to play with kids her age. But she and her four-legged best friend will always have a bond that no one can break. She may never be the person who turns the other cheek when she is wronged. But she will stand up for herself.
She is who she is. She is who God made her to be. He has a purpose for every one of her little quirks. And I look forward to her discovering each one.
Now I must go hunt down a Kohl’s receipt so I can return a certain sweater.