Only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.
We hear that a lot in our house. It is an established fact. A Pudding fact at that- nothing more irrefutable. Going to England meant the kids were going to meet their British cousins for the first time. Pudding has one girl cousin, and Pudding wasn’t going to tolerate any competition. I thought a mutual love of Hello Kitty might bring the girls together. I excitedly told Pudding that her cousin was going to have a Hello Kitty birthday cake the day after they met. I thought she’d love it. But I’d forgotten that only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.
So before meeting her, Puddings cousin was on notice. Not only was she going to have the cake, but a birthday too, of all the rude things! Didn’t she know that Pudding likes birthdays? And then there was Nanny. Was this little usurper going to steal Nanny’s affections too?
This time around, Pudding had immediately bonded with her grandparents. This is the tough part of foreign service life. And the tough thing about autism. For a child struggling with social interaction, limited time with loved ones doesn’t help. We can’t predict how things will be. When we visit family, I feel like I’ve just set off a soggy firework- it might fizzle out to nothing, or it might be explosive, and you don’t really want to be the one to risk trying to fix things when it could go off in your face.
This time with my mum it was like this from the first day…
Which was awesome! But I noted how Pudding jealously eyed her neurotypical three year-old. Because Nanny is her Nanny too. And every time previously, Pudding has only had to share her Nanny with Cubby, which is fine because she has to share everything (but Hello Kitty) with him. But this was new. And new can be hard. And new people? Even harder.
This little cousin already came with her own thoughts and feelings. Pudding hadn’t allowed her to like Hello Kitty, or to have a birthday, or share Nanny. This was hard. Not just for Pudding, but for me too. Well aware that the time we could spend with family was constantly trickling away, I wanted everything to be perfect for everybody concerned. I knew it wasn’t going to be.
Then again, I could see that Pudding’s response was valid and true to who she is. In fact, a perfectly normal feeling. So I let her have it. I stopped trying to force interactions. I allowed her to be jealous. If allowed is the right word- she certainly doesn’t need my permission to feel things. But I acknowledged it. Kids get jealous. Even spectrummy mummies get jealous, we all do.
And just like any of we creatures on this planet fortunate enough to sense the range of emotions that make up the human condition, it abated. Or dissipated. Spent. Probably a whole lot sooner than if I’d tried to facilitate the relationship. And in its place…interest. Fascination in another little girl. Then, before we knew it- affection. Love.
Her enemy turned into a friend. When Pudding’s cousin balked at the idea of riding in a horse-drawn pink princess carriage, Pudding didn’t want to ride without her. When she wore princess slippers,
Pudding squished her way-too-big feet into a matching pair. And whenever they were together, the two held hands, and ran around giggling at each other. Best of friends for their remaining time together. Inevitably, of course, the two were wrenched apart, and we had to feel the pain and loss of separation.
Still, we have memories to last a lifetime full of love, friendship, and family. But they don’t have to last a lifetime, just til next time. It is something over families take for granted, but we know just how precious it is.
When we return she’ll know there are people there who love her through good and bad, just as she is. And if we’re all very lucky, they might even be willing to share their Hello Kitty cake once again.