Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Day 7

On the countdown to Joaquin’s first birthday, allow me to indulge on a little bit of shameless mommy blogging and document my baby’s last week as a baby (major sniff).

Today’s morning was no indication at all of what the afternoon would bring. Joaquin had a terrible time at his Little Gym class. And I mean, this was worse than ever. He insisted in being held almost half of the class time. Refused to do all the challenges, but that’s not too surprising. However, this new episode of separation anxiety could be brought by a few factors:

  1. Last night’s dinner at our neighbors’ home. They were sweet to have us, and let me put Joaquin’s booster on one of their chairs, but bollo was all WHERE AM I?! WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! WHERE’S MY KITCHEN?!
  2. Bollo is starting to walk. I’ve read somewhere that crawling and walking may bring up a little separation anxiety; the distance baby puts between himself and mommy may be scary.
  3. Teething. Doesn’t explain separation anxiety, but it could explain the copious tears this morning. And believe me, I hate that everything in this world is blamed on teething, but this time it may just be true.

So Joaquin cried a lot this morning and fell dead sleep on the car ride back home. He took a long nap that gave me a chance to work a bit on putting back together things at the guest chambers (a.k.a. the basement we just finished fixing after the lovely discovery of mold in the bathroom, bedroom closet, and linen closet). When I went to get him after he woke up, I couldn’t imagine how sweet would be the next two hours with this surprising little creature.

Although we’ve worked on sign language since he was five months old, he still won’t sign (consistently). However, he understands perfectly our signs to him, and his reaction to each them is a very effective way of communication. Today was no different, except perhaps that it felt a little clearer: Do you want some milk?… YES!… Do you want to have a snack?… BUT OF COURSE!… Would you like some more yogurt melts? HECK YES!, please.

He spent some time playing with his shoes on the stairs: Climb a few steps up, throw the shoe down, come down and get it, repeat the trick 1000 times. We’re working on his very annoying habit of tossing food to the floor while he eats, and so it was funny to see his expectant look at me every time he threw the shoes. Like asking “Is this ok, mommy?”

Then he pulled up on the front door; a very typical sign that he wants to go out, or at least look outside. I showed him the street. The air was crisp but not too cool. It was still bright. I thought I’d let my baby have the joy of playing outside. I don’t regularly do this; that’s Joey’s thing. Joaquin loves it, but I can’t stand to watch him dragging his left knee and shoes while crawling on the concrete. But today I thought, why not?

So I got him on his shoes and sweater and we went outside. First stop was the red tree. He loves this tree. He spent several minutes playing with a bare branch and a little fruit while I held him. Several times he would turn to me, our faces just a few cms apart. He would turn and smile at me with such an expression of amazement. A car went by. He smiled at it (baby loves cars) and immediately turned to me waiting for an answer. “Carro” (the Spanish word for “car”) I said smiling. This is the first time that I sense my baby asks me a question so clearly, and there was no crying or yelling involved.

I put him down so he could crawl the pastures crowded by all the fallen leaves we still haven’t raked. It was such a joy to see this tiny thing on his blue turtle-neck sweater, looking so “fall”, crawling among all those leaves. He found a spot under the red tree and proceeded to clean it up. His manitas working so hard at removing all leaves (and mulch) from the spot he could reach. So right now there’s a perfectly clean little patch in our front yard, and it is all my baby’s fine work.

One of the reasons why I don’t like playing outside with Joaquin is his very annoying habit of attempting to eat everything his tiny hand touches. But he didn’t do that today. It was surprising. I couldn’t help to feel a little proud of my all–grown–up baby who apparently is a little bit less oral than he was a few days ago. But then, he did try to eat a couple of pieces. I picked him up and crossed the street to show him the Christmas lights some of our neighbors already have up. Again, I loved his face turning back to me amazed and waiting for explanations.

Back inside he did a lot of walking. He may have played about half an hour straight with his push toy, walking all around the playroom, shifting the direction of the cart, doing laps around the dinning table (for the first time), looking at me like saying goodbye every time that he went behind a wall and we had to lose eye contact, then smiling at me every time he emerged finishing a lap triumphantly. Which leads us to peekaboo…

Joaquin now plays peekaboo. It is SO CUTE! It all started for real a few days ago, when I began throwing the nap blanket over his head instead of placing it around him. He loves pulling it down to uncover his face and cracks up as soon as he sees me. It’s our new game right before I leave him to take his nap. This afternoon he discovered he could do sort of the same thing by hiding behind the couch. Oh that laughter! You want to eat him alive. And then, he turned it up a notch with Joey… A half wall between them, baby and Joey would lean to a side to hide from each other, and then lean to the opposite side to meet. This is the first time I see him do this, and the synchrony with daddy was remarkable.

So you’re probably reading all this, going “meh! no big deal”. And from the outside, I would agree with you… Almost all of what Joaquin did today I had seen before in some way. Except, today he did it all, and he did it better, and he did it in the short span of two hours. It was like collecting a bunch of highlights from his developmental history, and squeezing them really hard and making this perfect concentrated extract. I sensed him so grown. So smart. So sweet. So far from who he was at birth. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year.

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  1. On , Chris wrote:

    Days like this are so great – especially if you take the time to appreciate all the little things like you have.

    When parents are busy or distracted think about how this time would seem to them – not as exciting. Glad you were able to enjoy it.

  2. On , Marla wrote:

    Very, very sweet. I still get to watch those things from time to time with O who is now 8. It never gets old. And when I’m away and thinking I have a little break. I find myself thinking about all the little thoughtful things she’s done and said and asked. How she hums around the house and plays puppy and tapes things to every wall, including a recent note that said, in very grown up way:

    Dear Mommy,
    You are VERY, VERY helpful except sometimes when you’re not very helpful.

    Kisses and hugs.

    PinPin (her Penguin name)

    I understand that she’s saying “Dear Mommy, Most of the time you and I can talk about stuff and it helps, but sometimes, you just talk too much.” and I love how she wants to communicate it.