This was Little One’s response to my Favourite Wife’s assurance that she could come home whenever she felt like it and her room would still be there for her. They were sitting together, a little nervous both, on a visit to look at the home that will very soon be hers. Whether it’s for her sake or for ours I’m not sure, but it’s been awfully important to us that she knows she can come home, that we are here when she needs us, that when Independent Living gets too hard we will be right here, just like always, waiting to embrace her!
“Mum, It will Never Happen!”
In just a few short hours Little One will leave our home and fulfil her great longing to live independently. But “Little One” ceased to be her monika long ago. In these pages she became Teen Girl almost a decade ago, and is now aged 21. But tonight, especially, I can’t call her anything else.
My Favourite Wife and I have had children in our home for 33 years now, and Little One is the last to leave. I have adored a home full of children. Little One has Down syndrome, and is in so many ways just a little child still. Tonight I was able to forestall a potentially dreadful argument with an impromptu sing and dance routine with a walking stick, Fred Astaire style. With an immediate gale of laughter she jumped up out of her funk and showed me how it’s really done. She is a born dancer with an astonishing sense of rhythm and and endless supply of “moves”. A child still. The conflict forgotten she thanked me earnestly for dancing with her, and willingly went to bed. She still needs to be put to bed; just about every single night.
Once a month Little One might take herself off to bed alone, but on every other night we coax her under the covers with a polished routine that includes a 10pm automatic shutdown of her screens, followed by an immediate request for more time, which I grant in small increments. Warm milk is promised, and delivered. Then Little One insists that I tick off numerous daily tasks across a page, producing a growing tally that turns into a deposit of a few dollars into her savings project at weeks end. It seems to me a little inappropriate for me to be rewarding young adult for picking up their PJs (or not!), but she absolutely insists – and it’s a fixed part of the routine. For months now she has scored a zero on every single day, bar none, in the column for tidying up her floor. I asked her a while ago if she was, in fact, ever going to tidy up.
“No”, she said.
“Because it’s not my room”.
This gives way to our Wordless Hug. Words are a problem for Little One, there are too many of them in the world, and utterly too many issuing from her wise and devoted parents. The wordless hug is our invention, and it is wonderful. I love it at least as much as she does, and sometimes it is long and deep. The next stage is not approved equally by all parents in our home, because it involves tickling. My own father was exceptionally gifted in the art of rousing sleepy grandchildren with a good tickling, and demonstrated his talent at any opportunity. We just cant help it, one moment it’s a Wordless Hug and the next I can feel a sneaky finger heading under my arm. It’s awfully funny, and thankfully doesn’t usually prevent the next and final stage of the bed-time routing: pulling up the blankets. If all this seems like a bit of work, it is; but it’s a whole lot easier than having to lie next to her and read or make up imaginary stories until she actually fell asleep after an hour or more. This was bedtime until she finished school, just a few years ago. At last I close her door, and then I wait for her closing conversation with imaginary friends to wind down over the next 10, or 20, or 30 minutes. Or an hour. Or more….. Sometimes I go back in and ask her to say goodnight to all these vibrantly real and present characters, but that rarely works.
It’s 12.30am right now, and I’m aware that her chatter has finally stopped. I’m just down the hall, as usual, waiting for the blessed silence which I cherish. There is such rewarding peace in a silent house, stirred only by the gentle sounds of sleep. This is the time for thought, and prayer, and silence within.
Tomorrow with be a day of high adventure as we depart in a convoy of furniture and endless shopping bags full of I know not what!
Tomorrow night, with just us two … well, that’s a different thing altogether, and I won’t break tonight’s silence to give it shape just yet.