Yesterday, I got a call from a teacher at Janey's school. She is also a friend of mine, and has known Janey since she was born. She will be Janey's teacher next year. She told me a story that stunned us both. Janey was in the auditorium of the school, with an aide that the teacher hadn't seen before. Janey walked up to the teacher and said, in the voice she described and I recognized from the description as one she almost never uses, the voice of a typical girl her age, in a crystal clear tone "Is Maggie coming to school?" Well, that's amazing in quite a few ways. Maggie is the teacher's daughter. She doesn't go to Janey's school. Janey knows her because she has been to her house to play with her---she's known Maggie since Maggie was born, but the last time she saw her, from what either of us could figure, was three years ago. So Janey did many things she rarely, rarely does. She associated the teacher with Maggie, she sought the teacher out, she spoke clearly and meaningfully, she asked a question, she showed a memory of something that happened a long time ago, she expressed an interest in seeing another child, and she asked it completely appropriately, like any other 8 year old would. Needless to say, I was astonished and thrilled. The teacher said she was very glad there were witnesses, or she would have doubted it ever happened, and I get that completely. There have been a few other times Janey has said things out of the blue like that, and I often, after it happens, think "Did that just happen? Did she just say that?" If you knew Janey, you'd know how amazing something like this is.
And what does it mean? We talked about that a little. What Amy, the teacher, said, is that (and I might not be getting this phrase just right) it means "Assume total understanding". Although it might not be the case, always assume Janey understands everything we say. It is something I need to think about a lot. I don't do that. I am sure there are many, many times I've said things in front of Janey that she should not hear. I think that's easy to do, because for the vast majority of the time, Janey shows absolutely no indication she is listening to conversations or that she has any understanding of what is being said. But then, literally maybe once a year, she shows she does.
This ties in a little to Janey's recent sleep issues. For those of you following the sleep nightmare this week, we broke the cycle hopefully a night ago. We kept Janey up late, out of desperation, until 11 pm. Of course if Janey has been determined to fall asleep, she would have. But we encouraged the awakeness. Finally, at 11, I lay down next to her to sleep. I could tell Janey was tense. She was resisting sleep with every part of her being. I had a flash to how I feel when I've had bouts with insomnia, which has happened on and off my whole life. I feel like I've forgotten how to sleep, like I'll never sleep again. I lie there in terror that sleep will never, ever come. It's a hugely scary feeling. The only thing that works when I feel that way is to take the pressure away, to truly decide it doesn't matter if I sleep or not. I can't fool myself---I have to really feel that way. Usually, it takes it being a night where I know the next day is open, that it won't matter if I am tired or not. I had an inkling Janey might be having that kind of anxiety. So I said to her "You know, it's okay if you don't sleep. You don't have to sleep. You can stay awake. Mama will be here with you whether you sleep or not. Don't worry about it." Janey looked at me with huge eyes, with what I took as amazement I was saying that. And then, literally within a few seconds, she closed her eyes and went to sleep. For eight hours.
There is so much to think about here. It's easy, right now when Janey is fast asleep and I am not in the trenches with her, to say that I will always keep these lessons in mind---that I will always assume she is understanding me. But then real life kicks in. When you are on your 6th hour of not sleeping as Janey ravages the house or screams or laughs hysterically or begs over and over to go get ice cream at 3 am, it's not easy to keep that in mind. Maybe it's impossible. But as I've often said to the boys, and maybe I should say to Janey too, all I can ask is that you try. All I can ask myself to do is try very hard to remember these lessons.