Things, They Are A-Changin’

Things are changing in our household, as the advent of walking shifts our focus from mobility to speech and OT. (No rest for the weary.)

It’s perfect timing. Julianna’s comprehension is really taking off, along with her interest in the details of her world and her desire to process them: what things are called, their form and function. She’s beginning to respond to instructions—either by complying or by not complying. Her cocked eyebrow speaks eloquently: “Are you gonna make me?” And she shows that she understands, even if she’s refusing to obey, in the way she complies when you’re about to make her comply.

Understanding is not universal, of course. On Sunday in the church nursery, a little girl kept offering Julianna a “drink” from the kitchen set. Julianna didn’t get it. She was thirsty, and this crazy kid kept giving her a glass with nothing in it. The adult volunteer said it was hilarious; she kept getting this outraged look on her face and signing, “MORE!”

For four years, gender identity in our house has been strictly masculine. Julianna’s interests have remained androgynous, except for a brief interest in baby dolls right before and after Nicholas’s birth. She likes flowers—crazy about them, in fact—she’s both fascinated and intimidated by anything growing. She’s afraid to touch them unless you detach them.

July 2009 -- Julianna discovers flowers, in this case Queen Anne's Lace
July 2009 -- Julianna discovers flowers, in this case Queen Anne's Lace

Flowers aren’t strictly feminine, though. Alex loves flowers, too. So when, recently, Julianna started showing interest in cars (probably because “car” is one of her signs), I began thinking, Hmm…I think it’s time to be thinking about more “girly” stuff.

Enter OT.

People generally don’t understand what Occupational Therapy is. I certainly didn’t, when we started. PT, speech, yes. But not OT. PT is about mobility—walking, climbing, strength. OT is about life skills: feeding, dressing, and—for a child—play. Yes, play. After all, play is a child’s “work,” the place where she or he learns the skills and concepts needed in adulthood. Before you can hold a pen or learn to type, you have to be able to grasp something small and manipulate it—like a puzzle piece, for instance. Before you can thread a needle, you have to learn to thread something bigger, like wooden beads.

Our therapy team is great about arriving at our house with a lesson plan. They’re always responsive if I have my own agenda in mind, but they come prepared. Last week, Kim suggested that since Julianna’s play skills are terrific, it would be good to work on dressing herself.

Well, Julianna’s efforts at self-care are some of her funniest and cutest. Like when she tries to comb her hair, and she channels a Hollywood starlet as she strokes the back of the comb uselessly along her fine hair. Or when she takes the hair band from me and tries to eat it (she thinks she’s imitating me—I hold them in my mouth, to leave my hands free to mess with her hair). She’s also begun to help me dress her, so all three of us were on the same wavelength—Kim, Julianna and me.

So on Friday I went digging through the drawers to find some big clothes for her to use to play dress-up. Fifteen minutes later, Julianna emerged from the basement, resplendent in cranberry T shirt, salmon skort, baby blue tennis shoes, six strings of beads, an ankle bracelet, two stacking rings on her wrists, and skid-free fabric, relic of learning to sit up in the swing, as a veil. She was so cute, and so darned proud of herself, that I fell in love with my daughter all over again. And that night, when Christian and I were out at Penney’s, I found ballerina jammies on the super clearance rack. Size 4—two sizes too big. Perfect.

Julianna and I played dress-up before bed on Saturday.

All Dressed Up
All Dressed Up
Looks like a tender moment, but really it's a prelude to thievery :)
Looks like a tender moment, but really it's a prelude to thievery 🙂

When it came time to quit, I said, “Okay, all done,” and started to pull off the clothes and put them away. Oh, you should have heard the shriek. I’m sure all the neighbors did. “Oh, my gosh!” Christian said, laughing (he laughs a lot where Julianna is involved). “I’ve never heard anything like that out of her!”

Times, they are a-changing. And as the times change, so do I. Changing my procedures, changing my mind…but since I’m already running long, I’ll save that for a later post.