Janey has had quite a few good days in a row lately, knock on wood. She's been happy more of the time in the past month than I would say almost any month of her life. It's wonderful. There are still days with tears, and days like today, where there weren't tears but just quietness---no talking, slow moving, in a world of her own. But most of the days lately have been happy days.
Of course, I'm trying to figure out what is causing the good days, just like I do with the bad days, so I can try to recreate those conditions. And I think I have a theory. It goes back to a day I kept Janey home when it was snowing a lot. I had worried it would be a disaster, but it was actually a very nice day. On that day, and a lot since, I've been giving Janey what I think of in my mind as unfocused attention. That means I'm there with her, but we are both kind of doing our own thing. For example, I'm doing dishes and listening to music. She's in the room, dancing around and changing the music now and then. I talk to her off and on, and I'm right there if she has a request or need, but I'm not right in her face. I'm not quizzing her, or trying to teach her anything, or trying to make her talk. We are just together.
Janey constantly asks me to "snuggle on Mama's bed" I decided about 6 months ago to almost always say yes to this request. It's one of the few non-food or TV requests she makes. It doesn't really mean snuggle, but just to be on my bed with her. She usually has something in her hand, a toy or a book or her iPad or something else to hold, and lately I am bringing a book to read or knitting with me. I talk to her off and on, we giggle together, we play ghost with blankets, but we both are doing our own thing to some extent. This kind of time together seems to work better than anything else to get Janey in a calm, happy state.
It's very, very hard to resist a couple temptations that would take away from this time together. The first is the urge I always have to teach and quiz Janey. Although it's never shown much of any sign of working in the slightest, I still often try to teach her shapes or colors or letters, or to show her pictures in books and ask her what they are, or to answer my questions. I am quite convinced, logically, that Janey doesn't learn that way, at least not from me. At school, I think she does more. But at home, she doesn't. She learns from observing, from copying, from seeing something often enough and suddenly getting the spark that makes her want to try it. But she doesn't learn from drilling. The other night, we were together in unfocused attention and she had the smile I love more than anything on her face. She was blissfully happy. I remembered how that day her ABA specialist had said how well she was identifying pictures of her brothers, and I couldn't resist---I asked her "Who is that boy in there doing homework? Which brother is he?", pointing in to Freddy. I was watching her face as I asked that, and I think I'll never forget her look, how it changed. She went from the smile that would melt any heart to the shut down look. Her eyes shut down, she stopped smiling, she looked visibly tense. I saw exactly how it affects her to be quizzed.
The other temptation is to take any moment I can to be totally NOT focused on Janey. I can only do this, of course, if Tony or one of the boys is watching her. She can't ever be completely not focused on. But for years, when Tony was home and able to, I tried to sneak in some time to completely NOT focus on Janey. Often, this was fine---she was happy with Daddy. But other times, she was desperate to be with me. I would get frustrated---couldn't have I have 10 minutes just to myself? Lately, though, I try to drop whatever I am doing if Janey needs my attention---not if she just wants me to give her some food or put on some show, but if she wants to spend time with me.
I think it took me a while to figure out how to interact with Janey in a way that makes us both happy because I felt I had to make use of every second. I've read about Floortime, and it got in there someplace in my mind. I had to challenge her, to complete circles of communication, to do things that got her a little off balance, so she learned! I didn't stop to look at the results. Neither of us enjoyed this time, usually. It's a freeing feeling in a way to have Janey be eight. I've done my time trying other people's ways. Now I'm doing what makes Janey happy and calm. I don't mean I'm allowing her to have anything she wants or do anything she wants. But our time together is going to be, as much as I can make it, stress-free. Most of the time, I have faith that if I do this, Janey WILL learn what she is meant to learn. I look at things she can do now at home, and I didn't teach them to her. She learned them on her own. And I don't think she's ever learned a thing while crying hysterically. She learns when she is calm, when she is happy. And quite frankly, I am better at parenting when she is calm and happy. So for now, while it's working, I'm going with unfocused attention.