Hell and Heaven

Relationships are hard. That is why I believe parenting is hard. Dealing with a developing mind is a non-linear path full of brick walls and huge jumps.

Yesterday was my worse day as a parent so far, with my daughter surprising me with her depth of resistance, defiance, and distance. It threw me into a depression that surprised me with its strength and duration. I did not want to be a dad, and I did not want to be a husband.

I woke this morning still in my defiant funk and rose before my girls. I heard my daughter get up and instead of initiating a cheery “good morning!,” I waited for her to greet me. My foul mood was reinforced when her first words were a request for me to do something for her, instead of a greeting or a hug.

Welcome to the world of a child on the spectrum. I carefully and slowly explained to her how I felt by her behavior yesterday and this morning. This was returned by the usual silence of a girl who is often incapable of expressing herself verbally.

I invite her to my lap, the usual morning routine, and somehow we connect non verbally over shared hugs. And consistent with her cuddles since birth, she is facing outwards.

I break the silence by telling her I love her and that I can help her with her origami Christmas tree when I am done getting the venison chili in the crock pot.

She tags along with me, suddenly linked tighter to my actions than her desires. I turn on some good cooking music, and when a Colombian salsa song starts, I show her how to salsa dance with a partner, explaining how to follow a lead, and she starts to respond to my arm positions with the correct rotation for turns, to both of our delights.

The song ends and I end the dance with my usual dip. My daughter’s eyes are glowing and laughing, and my soul starts to heal.

The rest of the morning flows like a dance, with her trying to follow her parents’ leads with attention rarely seen. The morning dance ends with a crescendo at church, with her asking to be held during the music, something that dad cherishes but rarely gets. As we loudly sing Christmas favorites in unison, I am in heaven, feeling the connectedness physically through the expanding of her lungs with every breath of song. Connected with my daughter at last, deeply, and we both beam from the mutual joy.

From worst to first, my weekend now is a peak instead of a valley and I am ready for the next challenge or the next brick wall, hopefully with another victory in the end.


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