Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Open Ears

Anna and I took a little trip to New York City yesterday for some "girl time." This was her first trip to the city and even her first on a train. I wondered how it would go, post-blizzard in the city and coupled with the fact that Anna tends to whine about the cold. I needn't have worried. My girl held up well. I found it rather amusing that she found a huge flock of pigeons on the sidewalk in Times Square just as enthralling as Times Square itself -- there were all sorts of idiosyncracies like that about the day. She didn't mind the crowds in the stores but was happiest standing watching the skaters at Rockefeller Center. Out of all of the extravagance at Toys R Us, she most wanted to buy a little $4 "Squirmel" toy that squiggles when you pull its string. She made note of statues on buildings that I never would have seen but didn't seem that impressed by skyscrapers. It was a good, unpredictable, flurry of fun and busy-ness kind of day.

On the way there I thought I should at least try to talk a little bit about why we were getting away, besides, of course, that it was just a fun thing to do.

"You know Anna," I began, "I really wanted to take some time with just you because I think it's important that you have my undivided attention sometimes." No sound from the backseat. "I know sometimes we have to give Ethan extra attention, and that must be hard for you." Still nothing. "I just want you to know how much we love you and that you are special, too. This is your day...anything you want to talk about, any questions you have, go right ahead."

I let the silence hang there. I think I heard an "Mmm-hmm," or something of that nature. Then. "Mom -- how long until we get to the train station?"

So much for our deep discussion on life as the older sibling of a brother with special needs. I suppose it wasn't the time, or the place. This is what I don't get about Anna -- she doesn't talk about how she feels, most of the time, about anything. And I don't know what's going on in there. I honestly cannot tell if she's holding things in, or doing just fine, or if she's too young, or if she's just not as sensitive as I was as a child.

That's the thing I always have in mind -- my childhood. Sometimes I wonder if I try too hard, overanalyze too much, thinking of the way I grew up and how I just didn't voice everything that was swirling around in there, everything I felt about Andy's situation. So with Anna, I try to leave those doors wide open. Talk to me, sweetie. Please let it out, I'm always thinking. So far, I'm not hearing much.

A part of me wonders if maybe this is because Ethan isn't all that different, particularly to a six-year-old. He talks to her. He plays with her at times. He's not standing naked in a corner, moaning unintelligble sounds. Maybe Anna just doesn't see all of the differences between Ethan and other kids. Or maybe she just doesn't see them yet.

Maybe this is a path we're not ready to walk down. But I want to do everything I can to be ready. And so I spent the day yesterday with open ears, even if Anna didn't give me an earful. Except to exult about the catacombs of Grand Central Station, the My Little Pony car on the Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us and the zillion colors of M&Ms at M&M World in Times Square. And of course, those pigeons.

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