I don’t blog.  I enjoy reading other people’s blogs, but putting personal things up for public consumption is just not my style.  Having said that, you know that feeling you get when there are things you should have said in a situation but you were just too dumbfounded and the regret starts to really eat at you later?...

A sweet elderly lady was chatting away to my smallest daughters at the local supermarket one afternoon last week, as we stood in the checkout line.  Miss 4 was talking away while Miss 3 sat in the trolley.  The lady playfully chucked Charlie under the chin and said, “I bet you never get a word in edgeways with this one around”, to which Susannah replied, “Oh, Charlie can’t talk.”  The lady then looked at me questioningly, which I chose to ignore – possibly my first mistake but I just don’t always have the time or energy for the explanation. 

She then said to Susannah, “I’m sure she makes up for it running Mummy and Daddy ragged in the playground”, to which Susannah inevitably replied, “She can’t walk either.”  Charlie was sitting quietly in the trolley all this time, doing her ‘stimming’ hand movements which often get mistaken for sign language.  The woman asked what she was trying to say so I had to explain in very simple terms that she wasn’t communicating, just stimulating herself with the only means at her disposal.

Then she asked me a horrible question in a very kind voice:  “What does she do then?”

I couldn’t think of anything in that moment and stammered something inane along the lines of “Uh… pretty much what she’s doing now.”  OUCH!  Poor Charlie.  The lady then wandered off to husband, who had been waiting on the other side of the checkout.  Still within my earshot, she said to him, “So sad.  That lady’s littlest girl is a sweet little vegetable.  So hard for her; I guess they don’t put them away these days…?”  Then gave me a sympathetic smile. 

She was so ‘nice’ about it, I didn’t feel like I could really reply in a negative way so I just avoided eye contact, furious with myself for not standing up for Charlie, and for us. Thankfully, Susannah didn’t really understand any of it.

In the interest of getting it out of my psyche, where it is doing far more damage than I should allow it to, here’s what I should have thought to say:

(“What does she do then?”)

First… Her name is Charlie.

She loves the swing, but not the slide.

She likes most foods but not baked beans or spaghetti from a can.

She loves movies but not when the music sounds too scary.

She likes going to kindy and loves her teachers and her friends there.

She loves being cold, especially at night and if it’s breezy – but she hates the sun in her eyes.

She puts absolutely everything in her mouth.

She likes bubbles, and we like blowing them for her.

Sometimes, she laughs for no apparent reason, and it makes everyone around her laugh too.

She’s learning to recognise some sign language, and we’re learning to recognise her body language.

She adores “Do you want to build a snowman?” and it can always be counted on to calm her down any time she’s upset, especially when I sing it.

She likes books – she used to love turning the pages but has forgotten how, so we’re working on it.

She loves water – swimming or bathing in it especially.  She loves to get in the spa with her Grandad Hayden and have a cuddly splash.

She loves it when Nanna Hayden sings “Clap your handies, Daddy comes…” with her, particularly the end where she gets a tickle.  (She’s recently regained the ability to clap her own hands, and I’m sure this had something to do with it).

She loves snuggling into Nanna Russo and giggling while Poppy Russo plays peekaboo over her shoulder and tickles her under the chin.  She also loves to fall asleep on Nanna’s lap.

She loves snuggling in bed with her sister Susannah, even if Susannah sometimes strangles her a bit in her enthusiasm.

She loves watching her brother Dylan stacking cups, then knocking them over for him and laughing.

She loves to sit on her sister Emily’s bed while she gets ready for school and sings songs to her – and she knows all the cool teenage music as a result.

She loves It when Daddy pulls faces, sings ‘Never Smile at a Crocodile”, and lets her pull his hair and then says “Ouch!” loudly to make her laugh.

She loves snuggling into me, looking into my eyes and listening to me sing song after song after Disney-favourite-song while I stroke her soft little cheek

– she’s still my little baby at three.

She’s teaching us so many things – about her, about ourselves, about each other and about life.

She loves us.

We adore her.

Our Charlie is NOT a vegetable.

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