So right before we’re off to bed, our little tale we spin.

Of a day so right, ‘twas scarlet red, painted by a spirit deep within

Yes, we had a red-letter day this week! Wyly, my husband, had taken our daughter to the gym, to hang out at the children’s club there while he worked out. As they were leaving, Kyra, clearly thirsty, moved towards the water cooler. This is the kind where you need to get a cone-shaped paper cup from the stack on the side, hold it under the cooler tap and then press the tap to get the water out.

As Wyly watched, amazed, Kyra grabbed a cup, and held it with both hands while someone pressed the tap to get water out. She drank up and then daintily tossed the cup into the trashcan nearby. Clearly still thirsty, she got herself another cup (as if she would use an already used cup!) and repeated the process. She then took his hand, lifted her eyebrows like she does, and let him know she was finally ready to leave.

When they got home, Wyly told me later, “I kept thinking she would fling the cup away any moment and was waiting to catch it. I even told the babysitters at the kids’ club to watch out." But Kyra didn’t fling the cup away. She just handled it all with panache. As he told me, Wyly beamed, very much the Proud Papa, and we both looked at our 5-year-old like she’d just won a major competition. Actually, she had — with her own mind.

Kyra re-learns a sense of balance with the help of a special swing during occupational therapy class three years ago.
Kyra re-learns a sense of balance with the help of a special swing during occupational therapy class three years ago.

It’s also taken three years to get her to drink from a sippy cup on her own. First, she had to learn how to hold it tightly enough so her grip wouldn’t loosen and let the sippy cup fall. She then had to figure out that she had to lift the cup at an angle to get the water to flow to the lip. It’s something even small babies do with their bottles, and it was both frustrating (for her and us) and disheartening, when her mind wouldn’t make the connection.

It would be so upsetting for her when one of us would let go of the bottle and her hand would automatically bring it down, and the water wouldn’t flow upward. And it was distressing to watch her try and try and not succeed. Then, finally, when she did succeed and succeed regularly from early this year, she had to be taught not to fling the cup away the moment she was done, and learn to place it down gently instead.

So against that backdrop, to rapidly reach a stage where she was holding her own at the water cooler, was, in our eyes, pretty incredible. It’s also come on the back of a number of other achievements over the last five months or so. She’s learned to come into the house, take off her own shoes (always Velcro, never laces), put them on the shoe-shelf and then go and wash her hands. She’s learned to put her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper — something I hope her dad will also learn some day — and she’s learned to take her used diaper to the diaper genie and stuff it in.

She even puts all the spoons in their right places in the dishwasher, as I hand them to her one by one. It’s utterly cute to watch her concentrate seriously on getting the handle of each spoon through one of the holes in the spoon stand, even as her little hand shakes. Something as simple as getting a spoon through a hole though, is great therapy, because she needs to hold that hand steady and focus on the job. And every time she does something like this, she’s defying her own mind, and beating the odds.

In the process, she’s also teaching us something really important: If you think you can, you can. Incidentally, I, being a fond mamma, think she the perfect poster girl for the little known Mr. Wintle’s famed ode to will power, ‘Thinking’. Those first two verses are quite handy, aren’t they?

If you think you are beaten, you are

If you think you dare not, you don’t,

If you like to win, but you think you can’t

It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost

For out of the world we find,

Success begins with a fellow’s will

It’s all in the state of mind.

It’s not easy though, not in the least. Kyra might be five in terms of her biological age, but in terms of development, she’s much younger in many ways. As we can’t tell her anything verbally, we show her stuff and hope she understands that we’re trying to get her to imitate our actions. Sometimes we take some giant steps, only to regress. She learned to walk very early, and then forgot how to walk or even crawl. She had to have months of occupational therapy to first learn to crawl, then stand up, and finally, walk again.

She learned to put A-I in sequential order with the alphabet mat. It took seven months of repeatedly showing her one alphabet at a time, and then adding another slowly. Suddenly, some weeks ago, she stopped. She doesn’t even look at alphabets now. We’re going to wait a bit, and then try again. She might be stubborn, but bullheadedness is a family trait. Two can play this game.

The one thing that really got to me though, is this. She was about two when, much to our surprise, she suddenly started saying “Mumm-mmmm" when she looked around for me, something that made my heart sing. And then she completely stopped. All the different sounds she was making disappeared little by little, so that now, three years after she made that “mmm" sound, she really only has variations on an “eeee" sound for the most, and sometimes an “ahhh".

For a long time, I obsessed over the “mmm" — I desperately wanted to be called ma, or mamma, or mommy, or anything, by my baby, I just wanted to hear it. I would hear my sister’s sons, my cousins’ children, friends’ kids call out for their mothers, and it would eat me up., the need to hear her say it. Wyly would tell me not to stress over it, that Kyra knew I was her mother, but sometimes, in life, a niggling doubt settles in your head and you let it take over.

If that has ever happened to you, I hope you, like me, have a wise child who shows you the error of your ways. One day, I walked into the house after several hours away, and spotted Kyra. I held out my hands, and she ran across the room into my arms. We held each other tight, cheek-to-cheek.

Now, every single day, when she comes home from school, I get down on my knees and hold out my arms. And every day, she runs into them, and we hold each other. My husband was right. She doesn’t need to say “mommy" out aloud. She feels “mommy". I hear it loud and clear. And we’ll get to that ABC, she and I. We absolutely will. But in the meantime, we’ll celebrate what we have, and count our blessings.

The Moppet Show is a blog by Kadambari Murali Wade about her experiences of bringing up a child with multiple special needs. A new blog entry will be published every Friday. Read the previous blogs here.-

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