"I'm Yoshi, you Mario, okay Mom?"
Isaac's power of persuasion gets me every time. Maybe it's the way he makes such exaggerated inflection...maybe it's the way his little eyebrows raise and his face lights up.
Even if he didn't say it with such cute, eye-batting manners...I'd play with him. Because not too long ago I dreamed we could do this together.
Prior to Isaac being 18 months old, Dan and I started noticing something was different about the way he played. He was extremely introverted, often times pushing me physically away and out of the playroom. He liked to play repetitively for hours with the same toys (most of them younger than what he should have been playing with). He would roll balls back and forth, back and forth. He would lay on his belly, watching and calculating the trajectory as they ricocheted off the floor cabinets in the kitchen. He would be infatuated with the parts of a toy, rather than the whole of the toy or it's function. He didn't respond to his name. He didn't speak except for gibberish to himself. He would panic if there were new people around, loud sounds, or unfamiliar settings.
Oblivious, and often ignoring anyone else, there was little we could do to join his "play." I remember coming down the stairs to find all of the condiments taken from my refrigerator, lined up in height order across my counter tops. Isaac's doing. Once he even closed the door on me when I came to see him in the playroom. I felt guilty of something...felt hurt, used, and not appreciated by my own son (he still hadn't called me Mommy, and wouldn't until he was 2 1/2). There is nothing more detrimental to a mom's heart than when her child cannot speak, yet his actions shout loudly "I don't want you."
I couldn't take it personally. This was Isaac's struggle. It was my job to love unconditionally. After all, I just thought loving like that was something that came naturally, especially as a mom. With Isaac, I had to learn to love in a way that had absolutely no need for reciprocity: no special looks that connected mother and child; no moments of relishing the way he spoke my name with his little voice; no good mornings, good nights, thank yous or pleases. No discovery or conversations that meant anything. I had to love despite it all. He needed me, he just didn't realize it; he loved me, I just didn't realize it.
I could have kept loving him that way. I knew the strength I had wasn't my own, and that God gave me Isaac because he knew I could handle it with HIS help. But God didn't stop there. He showed me that loving Isaac through that time was like the love He has for those who don't always acknowledge him, push him aside, or ignore the fact that he's there, wanting to have a relationship with them. When the sweet and savory moment when I heard my son say "Mom" and look at me...I understood God's heart when someone decides to love Him back.
Now, when my exuberant little boy eagerly asks me to role play with him, I stop what I am doing and I play. I laugh, I run. I stop and think of how much I had wanted this time, and how distant it seemed only a year and a half ago.