“Mummy, look: she’s got happy hands!”
Pudding and I had returned from an appointment, and Cubby was observing his sister. And he was right. Spot on. Pudding was flapping, but her hands were unmistakably happy. She gets flappy when she’s happy. She also gets flappy when she’s frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, but those are all different flaps. If you pay very close attention, you can tell the difference. This was a happy one. He knew.
Cubby flaps too. As he gets closer to 3, I’m pretty sure that he flaps like his sister, and he flaps to be like his sister. So essentially I’m just as certain about not understanding as ever I was. There are times when he deliberately imitates his sister: he watches her flapping and joins in. At other times, it is an unconscious reaction. He flaps for the same reasons she does.
I flap too. Less than either of the kids, and so infrequently most people don’t observe it. I flap at extremes of emotion. Which emotions? When I’m especially frustrated, or anxious, or overwhelmed, or terrified, or happy- just like my little ones. I don’t consciously flap: no sooner have I realized I’m flapping than I stop. It is almost like I’m overwhelmed by emotion, and it takes me out of myself for a few seconds, and in that time, my hands have their own plans.
So what are my hands’ plans? I don’t know. Maybe there is in fact a purpose to this automatic and subconscious gesture. This could be my brain’s way of calming me down when faced with an unexpected feeling, in the way that my eye will blink when an unexpected foreign body enters. Pudding and Cubby have a much greater degree of sensory dysfunction, and the world is therefore a much more unpredictable place.
But Cubby’s comment intrigued me, because it is entirely possible to read what she is feeling by the flap of her hands. What if this is also an instinctive communication tool? At those moments when our communication is challenged, the hands take over. I don’t know if this holds true for me- if by observing my hands alone you could tell if my agitation was due to a positive or negative event. I just know what always holds true: that behaviour is communication. Even if all I’m saying is that I need a moment or two before I can speak.
Cubby has the gift of being able to express himself much easier than his sister. But he has another gift: he is attuned to her. He understands how she expresses herself. Just like any other siblings, their relationship isn’t perfect, but there are moments they make my heart flap.