Love, Inshallah welcomes back guest columnist Dilshad Ali for Mother’s Day.
You ever have those moments where your love for your children surges up like a tidal wave, drowning you in overwhelming warmth and sweetness? It could be the most mundane thing, but in that moment, your love for your child is so clear and pure and strong that it almost hurts.
It happens when Hamza comes home from school yelling “Mama!” because he is so excited to see me and tell me about something that happened that day. Shoes full of mulch from the playground, fingers dirty, his nose needing cleaning – he’s a stinky bugger. But his eagerness to find mefills me with a surge of love.
Or, the other day when Amal was doing her homework and I was working on my laptop, she says to me, “Mamma, when I grow up, you’ll have a room in my house. And, if I’m rich, I’m going to give you a servant.”
I asked her, “What about bhai? (Lil D) If he’s still living with me, then what?”
“He will live with me too. And I’ll have a drawer full of beads and a drawer full of twirlers just for him.”
It was all matter of fact to her. For me, it was a love surge moment.
Then, there’s Lil D. Yesterday, after he got home from school, he went upstairs to his room. I believe in giving him downtime when he comes home. He gets home from school around 3:15 pm, and his home therapists come at 4:30 to do two hours of community-based instruction (CBIs) and run various academic and life skills programs (like emptying out the dishwasher and sorting the utensils).
So, for that approximately one and a half hours before therapy begins, Lil D gets Lil D time – whether that means a therapeutic long, warm shower, eating a second lunch, wrapping himself in blankets on the floor or in his bedroom, or spinning his beloved beads on a spoon or toothbrush while making loud vocalizations (stimming).
So, when Lil D went upstairs yesterday, I let him be. Knowing that he’s usually hungry when he comes home, I called up to him, asking if he wanted to come down and eat. After about 15-20 minutes, I heard his distress cries starting, as he was escalating towards a meltdown. I was pretty sure he was hungry, but he was lying in the hall under a blanket, refusing to come down.
Though the general rule is to eat at the dinner table, I took his food up to him. He sat up near the top of the stairs and ploughed through his rice mixed with korma. And then, when he was done, he looked at me – direct eye contact, not looking through me — but right at me.
And said, “More.”
As in, he wanted more to eat.
I suppressed my love surge (and urge to squeeze him) and said, “That’s a good job asking for more! I’ll get you more right now.” I ran downstairs and got him a second helping and brought it back to him at the top of the stairs. He promptly ate that as well.
What do your kids’ words mean to you? I’m sure those first words they uttered as babies and toddlers, they were very precious indeed. Perhaps you recorded them in a baby book or mentally stored it away as part of your precious parental memories. Do you realize how precious your child’s language is? Their ability to talk? How many neurons have to zap and parts of the brain have to align for speech to occur? Maybe you have kids who prattle all day long. Maybe yours are teenagers who go the whole day saying three things to you. Maybe you have a baby, who is starting to babble with meaning the words, “Ma-ma. Da-da. Ba-ba”
How amazing is that? How important are those words? How crucial is the ability to express oneself, to communicate?
I recorded Amal and Hamza’s first words. I marveled at every aspect of their speech, as they went from babbles to saying what I so craved to hear – “Mamma” – to full sentences. Each word they said was all the more precious to me because their oldest brother couldn’t speak.
Lil D is nonverbal, but by no means silent. He has noises. He has the approximations of a few words. But as for his vocabulary, he’s uttered no more than 5-10 words in his entire life – water, kippa (chips), ki-ka (kit-kat), choca (chocolate), tickle ma (tickle me), hep ma (help me), gosht (meat) and aw done (all done). These words come and go and are not at all consistently or always used appropriately.
Recently two hard-sought-after words made it into his arsenal – “showa” (shower) and “more.” These two words broke through Lil D’s autism and are becoming part of him. Lil D doesn’t say “more” as he is playing with beads. He says it when he is done with a meal and wants to eat more.
He says it appropriately. He knows what the word means.
I want more, too.
Dilshad D. Ali is the Managing Editor of the Muslim Portal. She has covered Muslims and Islam in America for more than 10 years for a variety of media outlets, including Newsweek, IslamOnline, Azizah , Illume, , Islamica, and Beliefnet. During her time at Beliefnet, Ms. Ali greatly expanded coverage of Islam and Muslims in America and was responsible for the site’s Hinduism and minor Asian religion pages. She developed a comprehensive “Understanding Islam” section for Beliefnet prior to the fifth anniversary of 9/11, managed numerous blogs and newsletters, and produced an award-winning online travel diary with Islam scholar Akbar Ahmed.