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A boy called Fishy

I’m generally not much for children. I don’t plan to ever have any of my own, in spite of being prone to occasional ridiculously intense baby cravings of the sort depicted here:http://www.girlswithslingshots.com/comic/gws447/. Not that I mind kids—unlike many people, I’m almost never bothered by their shrillness or level of activity (even when I can’t keep up with them!), and I’m pretty much appalled whenever someone expects them to behave or think like miniature adults. I do not believe children should be still, quiet, patient, or good at remembering/attending to things. I recall being a child myself far too well for that.

I just don’t understand children very well, although I usually get along with them OK. I’m comfortable with them while they’re still too young to do much talking, and again when they are old enough to sit down and have serious conversations about Life, the Universe, and Everything… but I feel pretty awkward around them in the 10 years in between… in part, I think, because I do remember what it was like to be those ages, and I have no idea how I would communicate with that self now—her thoughts and feelings are in my memory, but no longer make sense to me, like the logic of a dream once you’ve woken up. My mind speaks a completely different language now, and I’ve lost my fluency with the previous one.

***

All of which is a very roundabout way of getting to the point that, to my surprise, I’ve taken on a part-time job helping care for a four-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. [I do a lot of nicknaming, and so this boy gets referred to by innumerable variations on his name, plus my standard cute-kiddie terms (munchkin, pumpkin, etc), and Fishy, on account of his passion for being in the water. I’ll use that one to refer to him in my blog, because I want to protect his and his family’s privacy, and this pseudonym at least says something about his personality.]

I met him entirely serendipitously, at a small party that just happened to be at his parents’ home. I walked into the house, and there, sitting on the sofa, was Fishy. My initial though was, frankly, that he was a funny-looking kid. He is. He wears thick glasses strapped around his head like a set of swimmer’s goggles. In addition to the hydrocephalus, which I didn’t know about at the time, he has inherited Daddy’s mop of curls, so his head looks ridiculously large for his body. His body isn’t quite typical either– he sits a bit slumped due to poor muscle tone, and his arms and legs are a bit small for his age. But oh, is he a charismatic child! His head bobbles a bit– his eyes wander around the room. They fix on a person, and his face lights up with a huge goofy grin, eyes wide and eager. Arms go up in a universal “pick me up!” gesture. He gets lifted, wraps his arms around your neck, rests his head against yours, and the grin changes to a contented smile. Pure charmer. A few minutes later, his arms are reaching out for the next person, and he gets passed around like a baby.At the party, he fixates on the men in the room, begging to go from one of them to the next. It’s the beards, his parents explain. And indeed, upon being lifted by any man, he rubs his little face against theirs excitedly (I have since learned that he’s very touch-oriented, but has relatively insensitive skin: the result is a passion for textures, especially ones that are a little rough).Fishy completely ignores the women in the room aside from Mommy, despite their shy attempts to engage him. Until it comes to me. I plop myself right down on the floor next to him when he’s put down to play and turn on the charm (I smile a lot at little kids, to an extent that surprises many of them, even babies. But they kinda like it, and most infants flirt with me outright, much to my mother’s amusement).

A few moments of playing with Fishy, and he’s reaching out for me to hold him. And then he doesn’t want me to put him down. I spend much of the rest of the party with him. “You want to babysit sometime?” his Mommy asks, half-jokingly, “He really likes you.” “I’ll think about it,” I tell her. And I do.

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