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Harvie, my daughter, turned three today.  There have been some concerns by us and others that she might be on the spectrum or have something else going on.  She is brilliant.  I know I am her mom, but she is.  She was reading words at 2.  Prior to that, however, she did take what others considered longer to talk.   I felt like she would do it when she was ready, and she did.  Her pediatrician wanted to keep an on things, but today, was pleased with her progress.  Is she weird?  A little.  Does she have quirks? Of course; don’t we all?  Is she hard-headed?  You betcha. She is also curious and clever, unafraid, yet cautious, very interested in music, creative and hilarious. Is she on the spectrum?  Aren’t we all somewhere on that dial?

Today, my husband, Jennings, and I were at a college pool with our daughter for swimming lessons.  She has always loved the water and absolutely loves swimming. We thought she needed more official lessons, which we had planned to start earlier, but Covid.  We have been working with her for the past two years in our pool.

When I was watching her, I could tell she was having SO MUCH FUN.  She was smiling the whole time, kept climbing in and out of the water.  Really, all she wanted was to be in the water, but there are protocols, etc. for the lessons.  Jennings was with her and did a great job trying to keep her focused.  She was very excited about all of it, was the only girl, and the youngest in the group.   You could see her smiling and laughing the whole time, until it was time to leave! None of the boys really seemed to be wanting to get in the water.  I was so proud of her.

Afterwards, Jennings said she didn’t understand some of the commands.  I asked what.  He told me they kept saying red light green light for stop and go when they were kicking their legs.  That is a phrase she has never heard in her life, so of course she has not context or prior knowledge to draw on.  There were no lights, much less green and red ones. 

Next, she had trouble learning to blow bubbles.  She knows about bubbles, and what they are, but they are all in a bottle that we blow through a stick.  Not only that, but she has not problem just sticking her face in the water with no complaint.  Jennings felt like we needed to speak to the swim teacher to explain, so I did, and of course they noticed, and said they were short a couple of instructors for that group who would be able to work more one on one with her, because she’s obviously comfortable in the water, and that Jennings could do it tomorrow.  They weren’t concerned.

I was thinking about it later.  I know there are expectations about how the pool lessons are supposed to go, but I don’t wan those expectations to take away her JOY.  She was joyous today at that pool.  I see her joy and curiosity throughout every day. She laughs at herself when she is being silly. Looking at the nest of baby birds by our door thing we do each time we come and go leaves her babbling about “budds” and “baby budds” a “mommy budds” as she putters around. Successfully attaching a Duplo block to our ever growing and evolving “casol” (castle) leads to a quick jump around and giggle. Petting the kitties and listening to Hugo stand at the back door barking to get in sets off a tirade of giggles. As we grow older, it can often be difficult to find joy in things.  I find my joy in her every day.  I waited so long to be her mom, and I am amazing by every silly thing we share. She’s three. I don’t want to see her lose her joy.  I have seen so many people lose that exuberance and excitement as they grow older, and I want to do all I can to extend it for as a long as I can.  Who cares if she doesn’t quite follow the rules, or do things in a way others expect?

I have been so worried about how hard her life might be when she gets older, especially if she is every diagnosed with something others are going to see as different, but I wasn’t always seeing how HAPPY she is.  She doesn’t care that some chart says she should be doing x, y, or z but some certain age.  She’s ahead of the curve in many areas, and behind in others – just like all of us have been at some point.  I think allowing her the freedom to seek and explore, to find joy in little things others might not will serve her well as she grows up and learns to deal with the difficulties of life and negativity of others whose expectations and opinions ultimately won’t matter.  I want to see her smile.  I want to see how much fun she has shredding a napkin into the smallest parts imaginable because she fucking loves to do that, and it brings her joy.  She just laughs and get so excited watching it float, amazed by gravity. Is not having to clean up that mess more important to me than her joy? Absolutely fucking not.  I have been projecting my unreasonable, arbitrary expectations on her because I was worried about a chart or a scale.  Tonight, I am going to go forward helping my sweetest, smart girl chase and embrace all of the joy around her. 

Because more than anything in this world, all I want is for her to be happy and to find the fun and goodness that is around her.

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When my daughter, Harvie, was just a baby, my husband and I decided that when she turned 6 we would start taking trips for her birthday instead of giving her a bunch of stuff.  We are fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy her things during the year, and we are blessed with an amazing village that always showers her with gifts around her birthday and Christmas.  My husband and I both want her to have experiences and travel brings a unique point of view on the world.  I did not grow up in a family with extra money for vacations and trips.  I can count on one hand the actual vacations we had when I was a child.  Jennings comes from an upbringing that afforded him the privilege of travel and vacations, so he knows the worth of such opportunities.  In my head, I have started compiling a list for us to work from.  I have already made it known that her first birthday trip will be to Disney World. Daddy isn’t as excited as Mommy is for this to be on the trip list, but I think it’s a special place that all little kids deserve to visit.   

Here’s my list:

  1. Disney
  2. The Grand Canyon
  3. New York City
  4. Jackson Hole, WY
  5. San Diego, CA
  6. Austin, TX
  7. Key West, FL
  8. Denver, CO
  9. New Orleans, LA
  10. France
  11. England
  12. Italy
  13. Australia
  14. Scotland
  15. Wales
  16. Ireland
  17. Portugal
  18. Spain
  19. Iceland
  20. Norway
  21. Niagara Falls, both sides
  22. My gramma’s hometown in Indiana
  23. Gettysburg/Hershey (because it was a trip my gramma, her namesake, always loved to visit)
  24. Nashville, TN
  25. Yellowstone
  26. Most National Parks

I know the list is long, and some trips can be combined.  Luckily, I am a teacher who has free time in the summer and her dad works from home.  I would love to drive and camp across country with her one summer, visiting some of these places and friends along the way.  We have a little over 3 years until the first trip.  I better get those spreadsheets started.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for places to visit! Drop them in the comments!

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