I cried. I’ll tell you that right up front, so that you pick up the thread of this post with its full weight. I cried right there at the table, that laughing, overwhelmed cry that requires you to grab someone and hold them a little too tight for just a little too long.
The last few weeks have held some incredible breakthroughs for Phineas. Because we never know how long each skill will stay with him once he’s developed it, we celebrate them all with a special kind of joy that honestly, I never understood until the hard-fought battles of special needs became a part of our family. We high five every time he writes his name. We fist bump every successful count to ten. And cutting a sheet of paper all over the floor into tiny triangles and being able to tell me what they are? There’s likely a little happy dance at the end of that. (And a broom, but hey, happy dance first.)
So often, Phin fights these battles– the battle to know— and wins, but wakes up the next day or the next month and has to fight all over again. It is perhaps the most heartbreaking part of being his Momma– the endless cycle of victory and frustrated defeat from which there is no escape. To counter it, we celebrate. And when the skill is mastered again, be it the fifth time or the fiftieth, we celebrate all over again.
Because we’re so often mired in the “little” skills (this is how you wash your hands, this is where you find your coat) it’s easy to feel like the work on the bigger skills will continue on, fruitless but for the act of it. I have sat with my son every weekday for five years, tracing his fingers over sandpaper letters, repeating sounds, naming words. He is ten now, long past the age of reading for many kids, but not outside the arena for some special needs. I have committed to doing this act for the rest of his life, if I have to. It is what’s mothers do, after all. As long as we are together, there is hope.
And then, this.
In a neurotypical child, I would have seen it coming. For weeks, Phineas has been able to name, identify, and make the sounds for five letters. Two weeks ago, it blossomed to eight. And then, he read.
He read a word.
I slid my fingers under each sound, he said it aloud, and then, he looked at me with those huge blue eyes and smiled.
Because he got it. He understood.
And there was laughing, and crying, and “Daddy, come quick!” And we danced and fist bumped and pretty much would have looked like idiots to anyone who might have somehow come upon us. All of us, from the 19 year-old to the toddler, celebrating this moment.
It might be gone tomorrow. We all know it, and that’s fine. But today? Today, he can read a word. Phineas can read. And today, that is more than enough reason to dance.