Reconciling the tears of happiness and tears of grief caused by these two little words
When I met Joe, I told him we would raise our kids to be little Charlies. As in, the little boy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Charlie's family was so poor that they saved up all year to buy him a chocolate bar for his birthday. Bursting with gratitude, he begged his parents to share it with him. Of course, they refused. Instead, he made the chocolate bar last for weeks by unwrapping it every night and allowing himself only the smallest taste. He never wanted anything, as long as he had the love of his family.
My plan to have a Charlie of my own went out the window when Theo was diagnosed with PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) at 2. He didn't speak yet, so therapists came to my apartment 4 days a week to pry words out of him. The main focus was to get him to voice his needs with the words "I want."
After months of work, Theo eventually learned to say "I want ___" before his therapists would hand him the toy or puzzle piece he asked for. But outside of therapy, he never asked for anything. In school, he would sit there until someone offered him milk, even if the rest of the kids had already lined up for theirs. His cousins would beg for toys they saw in commercials or demand flashy cars in the toy store. Theo asked for nothing, content with whatever we gave him.
Forget about my notions of the selfless Charlie. I wanted Theo to want. If he'd asked me for every toy in the darn store, I'd have given them to him.
Now, at almost 7 years old, Theo has no problem voicing his desires. And his requests are usually so simple and sweet, I'm happy to honor them. A new kitchen stepstool for Christmas so he and Melody would no longer have to share one. A pack of Uno cards. A lollipop. If I do get the rare big request, like going ice skating, you can bet we're going ice skating.
And now I switch gears to discuss kid number two. I always dreamed of having a boy and a girl. When I learned I was having a girl, already having had my boy, I only had one more wish -- for her to be neurotypical (a crummy word, but that's what we say in the special needs world). I thought if I could have that, I wouldn't complain or ask for anything else. Wish granted. When Melody started talking, out poured our tears of joy and relief -- particularly when she began to say "I want."
And boy, does this terrible two-year-old want.
I spend my precious little time with my daughter either giving in to her demands (after squeezing out a "please") or ignoring her while I let the tantrum run its course.
And I think about Charlie. Where is my Charlie?
I want candy!
I want ice cream!
I want to go that way. No, thaaaaat waaaaaaaay!
I want. I want. I want. Melody's sense of entitlement grates on me. At the height of my grogginess, and therefore my flair for drama, it makes me fear for her future. What if she becomes one of those obnoxious spoiled brats who make my single friends not want kids? What if such a monster is spawned from me? Me, to whom good manners, gratitude and humility are so important!
Then I remember the promise I made. I'd never take it for granted if Theo would just talk to me, or if Melody could just be a regular kid. He does, and she is. She really, really is. And I pull them in close -- my special boy and my beautiful brat -- to make a demand of my own.
"I want a hug."