Updated: May 6
The beginning of my first and only blessing of motherhood was a rocky one. My daughter was born with multiple food allergies and her first months were filled with bouts of tears and pain. Needless to say, in her first year she was unable to express herself. Because of that, I was very careful to monitor her for disturbances of any kind for fear that it might be the beginning of a new reaction.
It was in this attentive period that I began to notice some unusual behavior. I would often catch her staring upward, moving her eyes across the room intently at nothing but space. When I would try to win back her attention, she ignored me and continued her random gazing. Despite this, she was normal in so many ways. She would laugh, fuss, and play like any other baby, but she would often return to an intent fixation on dead space.
It was such a persistent and unusual behavior that even my own mother would frequently point it out with a worrying look. I remember one instance in particular. We had gone shopping together and my daughter spent an entire 45 minutes leaned back in the cart. Her neck was at such and angle, we were surprised pain didn’t keep her from maintaining the position. All the while, she smiled and starting at the ceiling. I knew exactly what my mother was thinking. A friend of ours had an older son, who in his early years went from a healthy, thriving baby to a severely disabled child. It didn't quite fit though. Everything else was normal. She was hitting all of her milestones, however, whenever she began her gazing, there was no getting her attention, no intervening with whatever she was experiencing. In those moments she seemed detached and it was worrying. Months pass by in this way. I got used to these moments, however, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t always an awareness of it gnawing in the back of my mind. Then finally, came the moment of understanding. My daughter was at the age where she was just beginning to say her first few words and conveying herself more clearly through actions. I had finished feeding her and was holding her in my arms. I was hoping she would doze off, but then one of these ‘episodes’ began. She stared off into what I saw as empty space, giggling at absolutely nothing. Her head began to loll backwards in my arms. She followed the vacant air across the ceiling back and forth slowly with a silly grin on her face. She was so clearly laughing at nothing. I found it unsettling. Then came the epiphany. After a few minutes of lolling and laughing, she lifted her little arm upward, extended her fingers straight and then closed them on the palm of her hand. Repetitively. The way a baby does when they first begin to wave. Then she spoke, “Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.” with a huge smile on her face. It was in that moment I understood what had been going on for so long. At that moment, I was faced with a mixture of fear, relief and awe.
Fear because it is a mother’s first instinct to want to protect her child. That included screening who their child is exposed to, but what happens when you can’t even see who is interacting with your baby? After the initial fear, I realized it was irrelevant, because whomever it was, made her laugh and smile. Never once was she crying or afraid. I could not tell you for sure whom she was talking to all those times, but I believe it was an angel. It certainly was not anyone who wanted to hurt or scare her and I took comfort in that.
On the heels of fear was relief that this was not an indication of a physical ailment (although, many years later, I have come to understand those with certain types of ‘disabilities’ to be very spiritual and in tune beings, many times operating from a place that does not allow them to express themselves the way most others do).
Finally, I was in awe of the amazing creature I held in my hands. In that moment, I accepted that the most important thing I could do was support her and be understanding of her experiences as she grew, regardless if I could perceive them or not.
Most importantly, this was the first in a series of events over the years that had led me to respect a young child as an old soul. It taught me to be quiet and listen to children because so many of them are speaking to you on a soul level, but as adults we are dismissive. We believe we know better and that the majority of what they contribute to the conversation is inexperience or imagination. Believe me when I tell you that it is often not so.
The world spends an abundance of time and energy telling us what to think, how to act and what our expectations for life ought to be. The next time you encounter a child who gives you advice or support, I dare you to take it. Children are so receptive, they still have an understanding that they are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings having a physical experience. The next time you see a child doing something out of the ordinary or thinking in an unusual way, sit back, observe and allow, because they just might be on to something you don’t know about yet.