Molly Keene

Today, we were working with letters. I pointed, hastily, at a “z” on its side that looked like an “n.”

“Ennnn,” I said. “Ennnnnnnn.”

“Eeee!” crowed Ollie. He walked over, turned the letter correctly, and said, again, “Eeee.”

Well, I stood corrected.

Today, he spelled walrus. Giraffe. Happy Halloween (that one freaked out my friends last week). He can’t say any of those words, but he can spell them. He knows the variations of his name, both full length and nickname, and will pull out books with each to compare the two.

Today, he happily shouted letters as I gave phonetic clues.

“Ah!” said I. “Ayyy!!” he replied.

Today, we danced to Lady Gaga and the Glee soundtrack in the kitchen, in between therapy (with letters, today, because that’s what he wanted, and we are working on “being with”). Little Bit, in her jumperoo, laughed and bounced. Ollie jumped in place, and then scratched on my tummy, his signal to be picked up. Up he went, and he lay his head on my shoulder and gave me three pats — a definite sign of happiness.

Today, he lay on the table and stared at the lights. But one foot tapped to the music, a sign that he could straddle Ollie-land and our world and be present in both.

Today, we worked past a tantrum.

Today, I did not cry.

Today, he climbed in the bathtub with his sister. Normally, he doesn’t want to be anywhere near her, but today, he touched her face in the bath.

Today, he got out of the bath on his own. Wet feet hit rough bathmat and rose up to tiptoes as he hit the other textures- cold tile first, then soft carpet, then slick laminate. He crowed at the sensory input but wanted to enjoy the cold air on his wet self for just. a. moment. longer.

Today, he sat at the table as we ate dinner. He watched us eat tacos with a strange curiosity, always refusing what we offered. However, there was a definite fascination with the dribbles on the plate — red salsa, green avocado cream, a smidge of cheese, juice from the steak. He daintily nibbled on a quesadilla, cheese tucked safely inside (so he wouldn’t feel its sliminess on his fingers).

Today was progress.

And though yesterday, we went to Target (!!!) and I, under doctor’s orders, wrestled him into the stroller and made him deal with the shopping trip. A small, angry creature, trapped in the seat (dear Uppa baby, your strollers are magical, and the straps apparently made of unicorn hair), and his sister, who only notices if he screams in pain now, sat patiently in the jump seat. He screamed at the top of his lungs, tears running down his face. I crooned that we’d be OK, but we were staying. And we survived the trip.

And I walked taller, bolstered by the words of a psychologist who said, “Those who stare don’t know what the hell they’re dealing with.” I wasn’t sure if that was in reference to me, or to the situation.

I choose to believe it’s me. World, you don’t know what the hell you’re dealing with. If I can survive the screaming toddler, you are like cake and punch. You are milk toast.

And even though some days I wrestle so much I want to fill a kiddie pool with jello and sell tickets for bystanders … today was not one of those days.

Today, we moved forward.