I got a note from Ana, Isaac's new afternoon nanny, today. She told me that he was at the playground playing with a toy car when another boy came and tried to take it away from him. "I was here first," Isaac said.
I was here first.
I can't think of those words without tearing up, without taking an inventory of everything that went into that seemingly ordinary phrase:
The hours of speech therapy, working on pronouns and ordinal numbers;
The social facilitation, learning how to pay attention to other children and address them directly;
The emerging sense of self to hold onto that car and not simply give it up to avoid confrontation;
The self-control to answer simply and clearly, rather than losing his cool.
I was here first.
If you ever doubted that the hard-won victories of autism are sweeter, just imagine the quiet drama of that little exchange: one boy playing, another making a move on his toy; the brief confrontation, the readjustment and shift to a new object of desire. For most children, it's hardly worthy of mention. It comes naturally. It happens dozens of times per day. It's easy.
It's easy like it's easy to outswim Michael Phelps; after all, it's just swimming, right? Jump in the water, kick, paddle, get to the other side; anyone can do it. But behind that seemingly effortless grace lie hours of work, an accumulation of muscle memory and tiny, interdependent skills brought together over time into one fluid, perfect movement.
First we pray that our kids will be able to learn social skills: when to say hi, when to say bye, when to offer another kid a toy. Then we pray that they can repeat those skills, generalize them to multiple situations. Then (most difficult of all) we hope that, one day, they'll be able to do it without fanfare--to make it look so easy that no one notices.
It's something to aspire to, isn't it, the quiet joy of ordinary moments?