All of my children are unique in some fashions. My eldest loved animals, I remember when he was a toddler he would carry around a turtle-seal made of drift wood with him where ever he went. Qaniit my only daughter was diligent and hard working. She loved to sow and weave with me, she became a seamstress. Rahmet was my only waterbender. He became a shaman and was the most spiritual of my children. And every day I heard from them "I love you mama, we love you mama." It warmed my heart to hear those words. I was lucky so lucky.
Yet. Tikaani never really said those words to me. Unless he was prompted. "Tikaani, tell Auntie that you love her." "I love you Auntie" He would say it in monotone looking at his toys. To some mothers, it was heart breaking. My child never told me that he loves me. Yet even though I was originally upset when Tikaani never spoke those words I didn't let it get to me. However...I did wonder if Tikaani understood what love even was, and if he really comprehend the idea of unconditional love. I want to hear those words, I wanted to be acknowledged.
It was at that point I realized that being rather egotistical. Tikaani didn't need to actually say those words to show me that he loved me. I discovered in many ways that Tikaani loved me. Not with words but with gestures and actions. And like a typical "Normal" I was too focus on the unnecessary pomp of words than the 'realness' of actions.
Tikaani would leave me his favorite toys when he was a little boy, around 5 or 6. He would leave them in by the pantry. He would put them on my bed. I thought he was just being neglectful, but he would smile when I found them and make his happy noise "eeeeee!" When he got older he gave the toys to me directly. Suddenly I realized what he was doing. He was sharing his toys with me. He never does this with any of his cousins...but he would with me.
He would not only share his toys, but his food. He would put his sushi or rice on my plate. I scolded him at first, but when I saw him put his last piece of sashimi on my plate (and let me tell you, this kid has to be part seal, he loves fresh sashimi like no body's business) and got up. I wonder if he was sharing his food or that he wasn't hungry anymore. I saw more of the former because he would share with his cousins and they praised him when he does.
When I taught Tikaani basic hand signs to get him to communicate, he would make the gesture 'yes' and 'Auntie' a lot. I spent the day wondering what "Yes Auntie" meant. What was he affirming? He would then used "Good Auntie" later. He would come up to me and sign "Good Auntie, yes". I was bit baffled. Then he combined the signs with a hug. Finally I got when he was trying to say.
"I love you Auntie"
I started realize that words meant nothing too him. He didn't need to actually say those words(I love you). They don't have much weight to him. Tikaani knew what love was, he just preferred to show it. Some days he would grab my face and make me look him in the eye. He will hold it for a moment before letting me go and then run off to play. I didn't understand it. I understood he was doing what I did when I needed to get him to look at me. He would do it too. I thought it was mimicry, but for him it was just to get my attention so he could sign "Good Auntie Yes". After these few instances when he would either hug me or grab my face to look me in the eye. I started to sign back. "Good Boy Yes". I thought about actually teaching him how to sign for "I love you"
"I love you Auntie..."
"I love you too baby."
So for the next year and half Maka and I began to add to his sign vocabulary. He knew "Yes, Please, Auntie, Maka, Amana, Stop, No, Done, Hungry, Thirsty, Play, More, Happy, Sick, Mad, Sad, Toilet and Go Home." Yet after a month of teaching him "I love you" he just prefer to sign "Good Auntie Yes". I responded with "I love you" Thinking that he would catch on finally and use that, but he didn't. Now Maka theorize that we're undoing what we've taught him. We taught him that "Good Auntie Yes" means "I love you" it was also easier for him to wave his index and middle fingers together(good) touch his chest (Auntie) and wave his palm (yes). Than it was to do the sign for I love you (thumb and pinkie out while tapping his chest). Still despite how he was use to doing it the other way, I was teaching him to use I love you. When he was 7 and still non verbal. He started to use the sign "I love you" after grabbing my face or hugging me. I was elated that he caught on. However he would only sign that after he hugged me. Whilst he used "Good Auntie Yes" in intervals through the day and not just after he got my attention.
I just taught him to use that sign after a hug or face-grab. Not how to say "I love you". I was getting egotistical again. I wanted him to tell me he loved me in my way. Not in his fashion.
When he started to actually use speech at age 9. I was again elated. Real progress, now he can communicate without just using hand language. I made sure to teach him a million words and help him say them. He wasn't fully verbal (and I don't think he would ever be) but he would say "Hungry, time to eat" when ever he wanted some food. Or "Water, water cup" if he was thirsty. He would string together weird sentences ("Fish apple apple jam, Fish apple jam") or just do what he use to do and repeat people. Maka: "Hanai, do you know where my ax is?" Tikaani: "Hanai do you know where my ax is." As he turned eleven, his speech got better and was still using words and signs to get his point cross. He stopped signing "Good Auntie Yes" when he hugged me. He just say "Auntie ok!" and hug me before taking off. I was still signing I love and saying it to him. He started to repeat mean and say "I love you" back when he hugged me. I was so happy. Finally we're getting somewhere.
Yet, he prefer using actions than words. Sure now at age 16 he can say I love you with some prompting and sometimes without, but like sign before. It had no weight to him. We're so dependent on spoken words that we miss the weight behind them. Tikaani just didn't want to hear "I love you baby" or "I love you Tikaani" He wanted to feel it. I stopped caring whether I heard the words or not. They way he would grab my face to look at me. Or the way he would give me the biggest smile and laugh when I wrestle with him. One day I told him I loved him, he gave me a response that wasn't silence or "eeee".
"I know." And then he would laugh and run off.
He always knew I loved him. I always knew that he loved me. I didn't need pomp or ritual of a sentence he didn't quiet understand. For Tikaani, Actions trump words 100%.
Happy mother's day to all the moms out in the Aut-Blogosphere.