Earlier this week, Justine was on her mat in the basement playing with her favorite toys – markers. We have this box of markers that she just tears into when she gets a chance, grabbing handfuls and tossing them aside and then grabbing more. I love it when she picks up a new skill and runs with it. This past year she started sitting on her own, and now she can sit on her own and interact with things that are around her. It is easy to see the gross and fine motor gains, but I often wonder where she is emotionally and psychologically. There is no easy way to measure how mature she is at this point, especially since she is non-verbal. I have pushed aside my dreams of hearing her say “I love you, daddy” for now. If we can get her to say a single word with some regularity, I would be ecstatic. What I truly want is for her to understand who we are. Because she cannot call me “dad”, I sometimes struggle with the thought that she doesn’t know who I am. And if she doesn’t know who I am, does she miss me when I am gone?
I honestly do not know. The usual thing people say to me is “Of course she misses you, Joey! You are her daddy!” And while that is a very nice thing to say to me, I don’t know how I can believe it. Yes, I am her father (cue Darth Vader breathing), but without her actually saying, “I missed you, daddy” how can I really know? I know is a selfish thing to want to be missed by my daughter, but I think deep down we all want that as parents. We want our children to understand who we are and want us around as much as possible.
Even with some of her limitations she is still able to get her point across. There are so many times throughout the day Jaz and I just say “What is she thinking about?” Justine will just be in her sitter or laying in bed, and then all of a sudden giggle to herself. Was she remembering that time I tickled her non-stop through most of the Moana soundtrack? Or was she remembering that time Jaz scared her and she literally screamed and jumped off the bed? At this age, kids are discovering they can interact more effectively with the world and can start communicating their feelings and what they see and hear. Parents with children who are non-verbal have to pay a little more attention to get the message.
There have been times that Jaz and I go out on a date night and we leave Justine with friends and family and when we return, her attitude changes one way or another. The babysitter will either tell us she was good until we got home, or that she was excited when she heard our voices. So that proves to us that she does know who we are. In a world where actions speak louder than words, because there are NO words, it is quite a statement from her.