Like many mothers, holding my little girl’s soft, ever-warm pudgy hand in mine has always been a wonderful moment of connection. Those little digits never far from mine, helped when the walk gets too long, the road gets too noisy or just for that little bit of reassurance. From back ache from the height difference of walking with a toddler, to the ‘swing me, swing me’ stage to the steadying hand when learning to ride skates, that handhold has always been beautiful.
Added to this the calm moments at bed time when your sleepy little girls lies there yawning and drifting off while you stroke her hair rhythmically or gentry brush the back of her hand and you feel the grip loosen as she finally nods off. It epitomises childhood, reliance, peace, comfort and contentment.
I always knew that one day the handholds would diminish but I didn’t expect that to be for sensory reasons. The comforting stroke of her hair can be a huge irritation, the passing hug a meltdown inducer and the handholding rejected when the mood takes her (poor daddy gets no hand holds unless he has gloves on because he has hairy hands!). But, it is not always this way and I think it is brilliant that she is starting to understand her feelings and how she reacts to touch and sounds and smell etc. She is starting to realise that at certain times, that stroke is not a comfort, it is an irritant and no matter how hard it is for me to take, I know by her telling me to back off, she is in fact growing in knowledge and confidence with her ASD.
She has always loved soft toys as long as they have a smiley face, (any ambiguous faced toys are banished to the loft pretty quickly), fleecy things, snuggly blankets, laying her head on the dog’s velvety ears – those things are still a huge comfort to her. She piles these fluffy creatures around her at nighttime, extended families of bunnies, large-eyed pandas, neon build-a-bears who snuggle around her, protecting silently, soothing motionlessly and comforting telepathically.
So at bedtime, she is wrapped in her fleecy star blanket and tucked in tight, snuggling her favourite toy who has been her companion since birth and lying peacefully while I read a bed time story. I keep a hand there, on the bed just in case she reaches for it and sometimes she does, hugging my arms so tight that it feels like she is a little curly haired toddler once more. I love those moments but I also love the moment when she is confident to know that the stuffed toys are better than me at that moment in time. On those nights, I don’t feel bad, I still kiss her forehead, I still whisper ‘night night’, I just ensure that the whippet sits on the sofa next to me so I can stroke his little head instead.