On Your Sixth Birthday

On Your Sixth Birthday

Dear Joshua:

Happy birthday! You are SIX years old, which you have been waiting for since the day after you turned five, just about a year ago. Congrats, dude; you made it.

This year has been crazy. So good, and so challenging, and everything in between. You finished preschool! You were named the Class Investigator, because of your never-ending need to ask what that is, who that is, why that looks that way, what that person said, what that person really meant, where you’re going next, and so on for about 80 more questions. It’s funny to see some of the same qualities you had as a baby still come out in you now. When you were about two or so, nearly every picture I took of you was you pointing and saying, “What’s that?”

At the beginning of summer, you participated in your first Try-athlon!! You swam, ran, and biked through a course while we all cheered you on from the sidelines. Your giant Batman bike helmet made it easy to spot you as you biked with your buddy, Ms. Julie, and your gigantic smile helped, too.

Over the summer, you began to learn to swim! Your hard work earned you some goggles – blue, of course; it was that day’s favorite color :) You got to go to Disney World and spend time with Nana and Papa and your aunts and uncles and cousins, and you got super tan. I was a little jealous.

The end of the summer brought the beginning of KINDERGARTEN! Man, that was weird. Kindergarten. My little mini-baby off to kindergarten. I was nervous for you, even though I had met your teacher and knew she was great. I just wanted you to love it, and to make friends, and learn a lot. And you did. You have learned a ton so far this year.

First and foremost – you learned to use the POTTY! YAY. That was a tough skill to learn, because muscle control can be so hard! But you persevered, and you did it, and all the grandparents in the world sent you underwear, and you rocked it. Plus, you look super adorable in Paw Patrol undies with your skinny little legs.

You learned to read! You are chugging right along through new books and words every day. As I sit and write this, we are fresh off a parent-teacher conference where one of your teachers described how quickly you have learned new letter sounds and words. You love to read anything and everything, including stop signs, which is super fun when I am driving. It’s also been fun to watch you sound out words from the closed-captioning on the television – talk about a win-win, am I right? And since you can say your L sounds now, it’s been even more awesome to hear you speak so clearly!

Among one of my personal favorites of the skills you acquired is the ability to dress yourself from head to toe! This one brought us tears and grumpy mornings and days where I decided you would just be naked forever and we could forget the whole thing. But, in the end, you did it. You did it – not me, or Daddy, or the OT. You did it, and you do a great job every morning. You’ve even started to pick out your own clothes – I like the combo shorts/sequin vest from dance class/mismatched socks combo the best, personally.

When I asked you and Jenna what you both wanted to do in the fall for an activity, you were adamant that you needed to play soccer. Not that you wanted to – you needed to. So we signed you up, and watched as you played your heart out every Sunday afternoon in the fall. What I loved about watching you play was that you weren’t always the fastest, or the highest scorer, but you always had the biggest smile. You loved it, and your coach worked to help you be the very best soccer player you could be for every game.

My favorite moment was during the last game, when you were practicing kicking the ball into the net. You were giving it your all, but it was taking you more timed than you wanted. You weren’t giving up, but I could tell you were frustrated. And then your team started to chant your name: Joshua! Joshua! Joshua! over and over again, and you kicked the ball into the net and they celebrated like you’d won the Super Bowl. Their joy and your joy were contagious, and everyone on the sidelines was part of the excitement in that moment. I had worried those other kids would say something mean, even by accident, about the way you moved. Instead, they showed some of the greatest kindness and compassion I’ve ever seen.

You bring that out in people.

More than anything, that’s what has stood out to me this year. Everywhere you go, people genuinely care for you. They celebrate with you, and cry with you, and cheer you on, and pray for you. That’s not because of me, or anything Daddy has done, or because of the way we raised you. It’s just you. You, and your inability to meet a stranger. You, and the smile that I can’t help but recriprocate, even if you are explaing to me why all of your dinosaurs are jammed into the vents. You have a way of making friends everywhere you go, and inspiring people to feel joyful.

It’s been cool to see you develop your relationship with Jesus. You can’t get enough of the Bible stories we read at night, and (surprise), you are full of questions about what you learned in church. It’s so crazy and amazing to watch you grow in this all on your own, eager to learn more and share it with us.

I don’t know what the next year will bring. The end of kindergarten; maybe the end of Special Education classes? Maybe you’ll learn new ways to ask questions, or maybe you’ll finally find all the answers. You’ll grow some more, just like you did this year (34.6 pounds and 3.5 feet tall as of right now!), and you’ll learn so much more, and you’ll keep turning into this big, magnificent kid who loves science and volcanoes and airplanes and fire trucks. Will you still want to be a police officer when you grow up? Will you still pronounce the word “vacation” as “bah-cation,” and still think that’s where Grammy is every time you don’t see her for more than a day? Will you still look forward to Christmas the moment the school year begins? Will you still crawl into my bed at 5:00 in the morning, whispering that you just need a snuggle before you start the day?

Only time will give us the answers to all those questions and so many more. But I do know you’ll keep growing, and learning, and asking, and loving, and smiling, and trying. You will keep reaching people in the special, inimitable way that God created you to do, and still remind me that if I expect you to try, I need to try, too. That we should all strive to be the best versions of ourselves, whatever that looks like.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Joshua, who made me a mom, who gave me my own personal miracle, who tells silly jokes and loves to rake leaves and always want to bake brownies. I love you so much. Here’s to six years of you <3

Love you now and forever,

Mom (you started calling me “Mom” instead of “Mommy” a few weeks ago – why must six be so cruel??)

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Southern Society and the Snowfall

Southern Society and the Snowfall

Ah, the last months of winter. AKA the Time The South Might Get Snow. Unless you’re living in a cave somewhere, I assume you have heard that snow is on its way – is already here, in fact, for many people (in states far north of us down here).

As a Southerner, I am not terribly experienced with snow. For years it was promised to me and never arrived, and now I don’t trust like I used to. It cut me deep.

I am, however, very experienced with watching people argue about snow and any kind of inclement weather over social media. It usually follows a pattern:

First, about a week or so before the snow is projected to fall, someone makes a joke about how wintry weather affects the Southerners. Usually this person is either a recent transplant or still lives up north and is observing via Facebook/Twitter/8,000 news reports that occur every ten minutes. Either way, they are typically not from ’round these parts.

It’s usually something like, “Uh-oh – the forecast calls for snow! That means Atlanta will be out of toilet paper and beer in about ten minutes!” They often add an emoticon to show they mean no harm. They will soon learn that no emoticon can save them from their fate.

Immediately you get one native Southerner who a) does not take jokes well and b) is VERY sensitive about our snow needs. This comment usually involves some capital letters, a few exclamation points, and no emoticons. It’s Very Serious:

“Don’t be so cruel. You don’t understand – we don’t have plows/were in a drought for a long time/have little experience with the snow [the excuse tends to vary]. It’s a BIG DEAL, okay?”

Then another native chimes in. This one is eager to prove that, unlike his angry counterpart, he is totally cool with the snow and is just as amused by his friends’ inability to cope. Emoticons come back into play for this one:

“Lol. This is so true. SO true. I was just telling Susan how true this is. We will not be going to the store to buy bread or anything. I mean, if we need it, sure. But not because of the snow. Lol. So funny.”

And then the memes begin.

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Then, if – if – it does, indeed, snow, or sleet, or rain really cold, the comments get a little more…heated.

‘Not From Round These Parts: “Lol, wow. People are freaking out. It’s just snow. But let’s all freak out and leave work early! Silly people. ;)”

Angry Southerner: “YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, OKAY? IT MIGHT JUST BE ONE INCH BUT WE DON’T EVEN HAVE SNOW TIRES. WE ONLY HAVE THREE PLOWS FOR THE WHOLE STATE. JUST STOP. SO CONDESCENDING.”

Amiable Counterpart Who Wants To Be Cool: “Haha. Soooooooo true. It is a little scary, though, don’t you think? I think you were just joking, anyway. You don’t think we’re silly. I mean, it doesn’t matter; I’m proud of who I am either way. But you were just joking and people got so mad. Lol. Hilarious!”

And so it goes. With each new prediction or instance of wintry weather, the cycle begins anew. Sometimes it is a continuation of previous conversations. Sometimes it’s a poor, clueless fool who really had no idea snow was predicted to fall over the weekend.

And then things get ugly.

People start to turn on each other.

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This is when Not From ‘Round Here and Angry Southerner begin to put it all out on the table. The chilly, snow-covered table. Insults fly, friends are defriended, and passive-aggressive posts like “Guess some people can’t take a joke. SMH.” begin to pop up. Meanwhile, Amiable Counterpart is just doing  a lot of “lol” and “soooooo true.”

It will last until the spring.

And then all will be forgiven; friends will refriend, and the memes will go back to politics, wine, and hilarious Tumblr posts, just as God intended.

Stay warm, friends! Don’t forget to tell us your thoughts about snow on Facebook!

Stop It

Stop It

You’re in the grocery store with your baby. You have made it almost all the way through, and now you just have to grab some ice cream – uh, organic carrots, and you will be done! Your baby is still smiling from her seat in the cart, you have found your last item, and – uh-oh.

You’ve been spotted by someone. She sees you, and she sees your baby in the cart. You try to turn around, but you’re blocked on that side by one of those weird cart things that are used for stocking shelves, and why do you always manage to come on restocking day, anyway? Is there a schedule you can see to help plan your trips? Are they following you? Will they be mad if you take an item off the shelf that they literally just placed there, ever-so-carefully?

You emerge from your restocking reverie to find that the worst has happened – the stranger in the grocery store is now touching your baby.  Sure, she is only touching the baby’s hands – you know, the one place your daughter is certain to immediately stick in her mouth.

“She’s so cute!” the stranger croons, while pulling your baby’s eyelids apart and coughing directly on her iris.

You nod and smile, trying to think of a way out. Short of running this woman over with your cart – which will land you in prison, so try to resist – you have only one defense left: Your words.

But what to say? You don’t want to sound mean, because you know this woman means well. On the other hand, it is FLU SEASON, y’all, and you did not Lysol your entire house and force your family to wash their hands 80 times a day just to be brought down by some lady in the frozen foods section.

I used to struggle with this a lot for my son, but I got a super fun bonus added because he was, at separate times, on oxygen and then in a helmet. Instead of just touching my immuno-compromised baby, I enjoyed strangers asking me all sorts of personal questions, like “What is that giant green tank?” and “What’s wrong with him?” and “Do babies really need helmets?” as if I was teaching him how to rollerblade right there in the pasta aisle.

It’s easy to drink the hater-ade here and talk about how everyone is so dumb and doesn’t understand, as if I have never asked someone a silly question before. But, really, it isn’t about the people – 99% of the time, the people mean well. They just need boundaries.

Which brings us back to the question: What do you say? What do you do? It’s perfectly reasonable to not want someone to touch your baby, but you really don’t want to throw down with Stacy from the produce section just because she sneezed in your child’s ear.

I have given this a lot of thought – too much thought – because I am a people pleaser. I am also someone who has received (and continues to need) a lottttt of grace for things I have said or done, and I want to give that grace back and share the love of Christ. But in the moment, it’s really hard to take someone down the Romans Road when you want to beat them with your loaf of bread for insinuating that something is wrong with your child.

So, in my opinion, you just have to keep it short and simple. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but since I have literally seen two women fight because one of them bumped the other’s cart and didn’t apologize well enough, maybe don’t go the super-aggressive route, either. What you need is a happy face and firm words. It goes like this:

Step 1: Stranger approaches. Stranger reaches hand out.

Step 2: Back up if possible. Block stranger’s hand and find your happy face.

Step 3: Say, “Oh, it’s flu season, sorry.”* Even if it isn’t flu season, just use that line, because the time the stranger realizes it’s July, you are onto….

Step 4: Get the heckola out of there. You don’t need to hit the turbo drive, but it’s a lot harder for someone to touch your kiddo from ten feet away.

Step 5: Don’t forget to go back for your ice cream.

See? Simple, and you have a valid medical reason (at least from October – April) that doesn’t make it personal. And you have ice cream!

*Sometimes, I also say, “Oh, he has been sick recently.” That usually gets people out of there really fast. Sometimes my daughter answers questions for me, and since she is four, she does it with the highest level of disdain in her voice that is possible to be conveyed by a human. Feel free to borrow her.

This next part is just for the strangers in our scenario. Yes, Ethel, I am talking to you – you, who thinks it’s perfectly fine to touch a baby because new moms worry too much about germs and when you were a kid your parents took you to ERs to lick the floor and let you use needles you found under the couch. I get it, girl. Babies are cute. It is not a typical occurrence for you to see a child with a helmet, or using crutches, or flapping their hands. You don’t mean any harm. You just want to visit, or you just have an innocent, curious need to know about this child’s special need.

But, sister, from me to you, heed these words:

Stop it.

Seriously. Stop it. No more touching. Don’t ask weird and very personal medical questions in the middle of the floral department. Approach from a distance, and, by all means, have a conversation! Compliment the heck out of that baby, and tell that parent what a great job they have done. Don’t make jokes about kidnapping, or offer advice. Smile, wave, and move on.

Because while I know you mean well, I also know you’ve been in my shoes before. You know what it is to have young children who you are just trying to keep healthy and happy for the duration of your grocery trip. You raised children, you love children, and you know how hard being a mom is. Bring those memories to the front of your mind with every interaction you have, and remember the days where you just wanted to keep everyone’s snot a regular, clear color, just for one week out of the winter.

When in doubt, consult Bob Newhart.

And then stop it.

Shop on, moms – don’t be afraid to speak up for your kids! And always, always – like for real, always – carry hand sanitizer in your purse.

Better Than Perfect

Better Than Perfect

Last night, my four-year-old asked me if she could show me several toys she had gathered in a basket. That was the entire activity. She pulled out each toy, one by one. First up, a little pink parrot. 

“This is my parrot. It’s pink.” Ah. 

“This is an earring. It’s yours but I took it.” 

“This is a watch. It’s red. So I guess it’s a red watch.”

Powerful stuff. 

We did this for the better part of an hour, with her showcasing her found items like Vanna White while I ooh’d and ahhh’d over each one until she was satisfied I fully appreciated their value. After we had gone through the basket a few times, I told her I needed to take care of some things – putting dinner away, returning some emails to a client, and starting our bedtime routine. She asked if we could play afterwards, and I broke the news that the bedtime routine actually involved her going to bed, which was as shocking to her this night as it has been every night this year. 

“But we NEVER play together, Mom! That’s not fair!”

I instantly froze. Was I focusing too much on housework and ignoring my kids? Was I being a Martha instead of a Mary, and missing what was happening today in front of me just so I could prepare for tomorrow? Was I sending my daughter the message that dishes were more important to me than she was?

My husband, recognizing the deer-in-the-headlights look in my eyes, intervened. He reminded my daughter of all the time we had spent together today, all the fun we’d had outside and inside and playing princesses and Barbies and, most recently, the game where I watched her pull toys and stolen objects out of a basket. She groused a little more, but eventually consented to the evil bedtime routine and even agreed to put on pajamas, which is not an easy victory to come by in this house. 

As I finished the work I wanted to do, I thought about how grown up my kids had become. They will start kindergarten and Pre-K this year, and from there it will only be a short jump to middle school, and then high school, and then, and then, and then… I thought about that saying people have, that you only get 18 summers with your kids before they’re grown and off to a new adventure. I thought about my daughter, and of the ways we had played together today and every day, and the fun we’d had all summer long. Some days were busy – a day at Disney, visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, swim lessons and camps and VBS. Some days were lazy, and no one was dressed until lunchtime, and we didn’t go any farther than the back yard, and we watched too much TV.

You only get 18 summers with your kids. 

But does every day of each of those summers need to be perfect? 

When I think back to my summers as a kid, I remember the fun stuff – trips to Disney, days at the beach, and all the fun that comes with it. I know my parents put a ton of care into the fun vacations and the big moments, and I cherish those memories. The big moments mean a lot, and are probably just as important to the parents as they are to the kids. 

But as much as I loved those things, they aren’t the first things that come to mind when I think of my childhood. The most powerful memories, the ones that stick out the most with vivid detail, are of the little things: Stacking our couch cushions really high and then jumping on top of them while my dad helped and my mom doled out the inevitable Band-Aids; the day we got a new swing set in the back yard; going to my grandparents’ house every Sunday for lunch; trying to convince my brother that our parents had found him at the side of the road and that’s why he was the only lefty in the family; the nights my sister let me sleep in the top bunk even though it was hers. It is the dozens, probably hundreds, of tiny moments that I look back on now, and that I think of when I am creating memories for my own children. 

I heard a phrase recently that has stuck with me: Done is better than perfect.

At first, I didn’t like it. By its own definition, perfect is better. It’s perfect. Done can’t be better. (It actually reminded me of a phrase from Paw Patrol: Do your best and forget the rest! That sounds really encouraging, until you realize the firedog is saying it and that he’s the one responsible for saving your life.)

Perfect is better. Until it isn’t. 

In my daughter’s mind, the amount of time we had spent playing together wasn’t perfect – because, for her, the only perfect thing would be if the playing never stopped, except for small breaks in which I would be allowed to get her applesauce. We would play all day and all night every day of the week and it would never be enough, because she’s four, and that’s how four-year-olds think. 

In my own mind, I could look back at a long list of necessary chores and start to feel the guilt over doing them instead of playing with my children all day long. I could pick and pick at our fun day until I had torn it to shreds, ignoring all of the joy we’d experienced as a family and only remembering the parts where I was less than perfect. My Pre-K daughter, who has a promising career as a mind ninja, had me questioning whether I was focusing on the wrong things, worrying about the wrong stuff. 

But here’s the thing – eventually, somebody has to do the dishes. A time will come when we have to go to bed. Someone has to sweep the floors before the EPA condemns the house. These things aren’t used as a means of ignoring my children, but as a means of fulfilling my role in my household. (I will take this opportunity to let you know that my husband is the one who actually cleaned up dinner and dishes last night, because he is rad that way.) There will come a point in the day where I do need to wash some clothes if I want any of us to have clean underwear tomorrow. I also work outside my home, and I’ve discovered others tend to get a smidgen annoyed if you stop returning their calls or emails for days.

Likewise, my kids need me to play with them. They need me to get off my phone and look into their eyes when I answer their questions. They need me to watch them do a flip on the couch for the fortieth time. They need me to be the snack keeper, the answer looker upper, the book reader, and, apparently, the third Transformer. They need me to be their parent and love them each day.

I can’t accomplish 100% of my work and play with my kids 100% of the time. It isn’t possible. I would have to be two people – two perfect people. And I am only one imperfect person. 

And that, my fellow parent, is why done is better than perfect. 

If my goal is perfection, I am doomed before I start. I am an imperfect mother, wife, friend, daughter, coworker, and everything in between. This isn’t meant to be self-deprecating; just truthful. The list of perfect people who have walked this earth is limited to Jesus. When I set out to be perfect, I am certain to fail. 

But when I focus on getting done what I can – not always very well, and maybe downright terribly – and when I focus on the One who is perfect, and who redeems my imperfections each and every day, I suddenly find that life is a little more manageable. 

See, I thought that “done is better than perfect” was just an excuse for laziness. But it’s actually an opportunity for me to understand my limitations and focus on the things that I have been called to do. 

“Done is better than perfect” really means that you need balance in every part of your life. Not just some parts. Not just the parts you think people can see. Not just the parts you feel guilty about. Every part. It means that some nights we stay up late to play and some nights we’re in bed early because Mommy and Daddy are tired. It means keeping up with my own work, and taking time for myself, and being there for my kids, and being there for my husband.

Yesterday, my daughter and I rode a magic carpet, ate lollipops, helped some princesses find their sisters, and ran around in circles while my son chased us with his Batman toy (which I made the mistake of calling a doll earlier, and I am still very, very sorry, Joshua). After dinner, I braided her hair, showed her some videos of her swimming, and she topped it all off with the toy showcase extravaganza. 

Because we were at home most of the day, I also managed to get some work done that I had been putting off – scrubbing my floors clean of a Mystery Substance that was now large enough to have its own zip code, putting away a pack of Pull-ups that had taken up semi-permanent residence on my kitchen counter, and finally remembering to actually start the load of clothes waiting in my washer instead of adding “just one more thing.”

Before you’re too impressed with me, I need you to know that I also managed to catch up on one or twelve episodes of my “stories,” as Daniel would call them. 

I could have played with my kids more. I could have gotten more work done. I will always be able to find fault with the way I manage my time.

But done is better than perfect. 

It’s actually good for kids to learn to play on their own – they have to use their imaginations, which is a vital skill, and it fosters independence. It’s good for children to learn about boundaries, and that while they are very much loved, sometimes things aren’t about them. It’s healthy for a child to see a parent as their own separate entity. I think it’s great for my children to see their father and mother working hard, both in and out of our home, and leading a family. It’s important for children to learn about being content and not getting another toy or a trip to McDonald’s.

It’s also good to realize that, oftentimes, dishes aren’t more important than snuggles. Going to bed late in the summer probably won’t hurt anyone.  A study that I just recently made up shows that, in our house, the seventeenth round of Spiderman And Snow White Meet Some Ponies is actually the best round. You can always start the washer tomorrow if it means you get to play tag for an extra few minutes with your soon-to-be kindergartner. McDonald’s doesn’t have to happen every day, but a little treat goes a long way. Playing dress-up is actually pretty fun, and it turns out it doesn’t take very long to button a dinosaur costume – and the resulting dinosaur is downright adorable. 

Do you see? I finally learned, all the way at the end of our fifth and sixth summers, that it is okay that I hadn’t planned out every minute and made each day unforgettable. It is okay that, some nights, I went to bed early, because I was just exhausted. It’s okay that, on more than a few occasions, I left a pot to “soak overnight” (we all know what that means) and helped my kids make paper airplanes instead. It’s okay that we spent money on trips and fun days, and it’s okay that the other days were spent at home. It’s okay that I asked my kids to play quietly while I got on the phone with my boss. It’s okay that I asked my boss to move a phone call because my kids needed me.

It’s okay that the little moments were as important as the big ones. It’s okay. It’s done, and I did it the best way I could – imperfectly. 

When we start to think, even for a moment, that we can be perfect, we immediately stumble. We are looking to ourselves to do a job that can only be completed by Christ. But when we recognize our imperfections, and strive to do the best our limited selves can do, we find that the perfect moments we’d been waiting for were there all along.

You only get 18 summers with your kids. Don’t spend them looking for perfection so often that you miss the messy days right in front you. 

Done is better than perfect. 

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The Case For Nudity

The Case For Nudity

Most people know we do a special feeding program for our son, where we puree or chop food and serve it to him through a series of prompts and spoons that can only be ordered on Amazon.

But while all the pureeing and the Amazon Priming and the meticulous measuring of chicken nuggets can be frustrating and difficult, the hardest part of this whole process is something else entirely. It has nothing to do with the food or the feeding protocol. It has to do with my face.

A big part of this feeding program is the way we are – and aren’t – allowed to respond to Josh during a meal. We are to give positive reinforcement and to ignore all negative behavior (unless he is going to hurt himself or someone else). So when he, gee, I don’t know, flings a spoon full of blueberries at my face, I can say nothing. I can do nothing. I can’t glare at him or use my Angry Eyes. I can only sit there, blueberries drying in my eyelashes, while my little fruit flinger laughs hysterically. And then I get to tell him good job for not throwing blueberries the next time.

But the thing about Josh is that, above almost all else, he is very, very observant. It’s hard to sneak things past him, even if you never talk about it in front of him. It took him about 12 minutes into the first session to figure out that I wasn’t going to say anything when he acted like a hooligan.

So what happened next really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

One fateful day – let’s call it a Wednesday – I was feeding Joshua his bites at the Marcus Autism Center during our initial eight-week run. So he and I were in a room on one side of a two-way mirror, and our feeding therapist and the program coordinator were on the other side. We couldn’t see them, but they could see us. And they got an eyeful.

Josh had been going through what we’ll call a rebellious stage – the aforementioned berry launching, for instance, was one of his new behaviors during feeding therapy. I thought we’d reached the height of his abilities, but I learned a lesson that day that I have learned many times over since – you should never, ever underestimate Joshua.

As I picked up the next spoon to give to Josh, I noticed he was reaching for his shoes. I said nothing as he used his impossibly long reach to remove his shoe. And I said nothing as it went sailing over my head.

A sock soon followed. Then the other shoe and sock. I was irritated that he wasn’t listening and was afraid I’d show it, so I purposely avoided eye contact with him. But out of the corner of my eye, I could he was delighted with himself – and he wasn’t finished.

Ignoring my prompts to eat the next bite, Josh giggled uncontrollably as he began the next phase of stripping: Removing his shirt. He had been able to do that for several months, but he was laughing so hard that it took a minute.

There were, in theory, protocols for things like this. After a few seconds of zero attention being paid to him, he was supposed to acquiesce to my requests and take his bite so he could get his reward. But the joy of nudity was more powerful than any reward I could offer.

I was at a loss. The experts on the other side of the mirror said nothing, I suspect due to laughing uncontrollably. Not that I could blame them – I was now afraid to look at Josh not because I was irritated but because I was fighting the urge to burst into giggles myself.

The shirt was off and had been tossed at my face. I removed it, folded it, and set it next to me. After taking a calming breath and trying to think of something sad, I picked up the spoon for the third time, turned to Joshua, and told him to take his bite.

His only response was to wriggle himself out of the seatbelt in his high chair (ironically, we were participating in this feeding program because he was so small and underweight) and begin removing his pants. Those took a little longer, because he was fighting to take them off inch by inch beneath the seatbelt and tray. But no one ever said Josh was a quitter, and soon the pants joined their brethren in the act of flying through the air like a magnificent, baseball-patterned rocket ship.

We were at a standstill. I could barely breathe from trying to contain my laughter, and Joshua was giggling so hard he couldn’t sit up straight.

Finally, mercifully, our 40 minute feeding session was over. Josh was working on removing the tabs on his diaper, and I was Googling whether you could get a hernia from holding in hysterical laughter for half an hour.

The therapists came in, did not acknowledge the nudity, and told me they would see us at our next session in 50 minutes. They were extremely professional as they handed me Joshua’s socks and shoes. And they maintained their cool demeanor when Josh was finally successful at taking off his diaper.

I re-diapered the giggling maniac, marched him down the hall, and into the private room we’d been assigned for nap time. As I told him to stand still so I could put his shirt on for the second time that day, he smiled at me.

“Mommy?” he said, still smiling.

“Yes?”

“I’m hungry.”

And then I swear he winked.

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