"Ponat! That's Liamese for pine cone!"
Liam was swinging on our neighbor's swing and referring to a large pine cone in their yard.
"Eesh ta Ponat. That is a pine cone," he continued.
What had started as an inside joke for words Liam made up, had suddenly gelled into a fully-conceived language. He began to recite the Liamese alphabet, as he swung back and forth. It sounded like a synthesis of all of the languages he had listened to over the years, French, Russian, Cherokee, Spanish, Polish - all of the sounds combined into "Liamese."
I started pointing to other things around us. Gesturing to a chair on the porch I said, "what's Liamese for "chair?"
"GHRES," he said, without hesitation. The first sound was throaty as in Hebrew. We had fun naming things. This morning, while petting the cat, I said, "Jake likes to have his pets - how would you say, "I like pets" in Liamese?"
"Ee loo paas." Verbs. Cool. In a million years, I couldn't have predicted that Liam would take his interest in other languages and invent his own.
It makes me wish I could watch his brain forming all of the new pathways that come with adolescence. Lately, there have been many more "a-ha" moments.
One that felt like the sky breaking open, was Liam agreeing to use the Roto Clipper I'd bought from a TV ad, to trim his nails. Nail trimming has been a problem since he was old enough to pull his hands out of mine. For a wee while, I could sneak in a trim while he was napping, but soon, he learned to curl his hands into fists while asleep. Therapists tried. I tried. Eventually, I let him bite his nails. He is even flexible enough to be able to bite his toenails (gross, but impressive). He would agree to use a nail file on the rougher edges, but it wasn't pretty.
Yesterday, he was changing clothes and when he pulled off his socks, I could see a few nails that were getting too long. "Time to file," I said. I went into the bathroom and reached into the drawer where we keep the files and saw the Roto Clipper. We'd tried it once before and only succeeded in munching a small hole in a shirt (yes, it will eat fabric). I almost left it in the drawer, but decided on one more try.
I came in, trimming one of my own nails. "You should really try this. It's so easy- and better than the other file." I'm not sure what prompted him to take it from me. He first held it up to a fingernail and pushed the nail into the little slod. "It doesn't tickle."
"Nope. Try one of your toenails - the big one. Then I'll leave you alone." I guess the prospect of Mom getting out of his face was enough for him to try anything. He started to work on his nail and he kept at it until it was a reasonable length and smooth. I suggested he look at the next nail. In no time, he'd done one, whole foot.
"I did it!" He said, more as a cue for me to leave than in triumph. I knew it was risky to push it, but I had to try.
"Yes - you did a perfect job, but you have two feet! You need to make them both look good." I guess that made sense enough to go ahead and tackle the other foot. My husband's face appeared in the doorway for a moment. I smiled and shooed him away - afraid to break the spell.
When Liam finished the last toe, I told him what an excellent job he'd done and told him he'd earned a treat. Liam chose Gummy Tummies. I gave him the treat and his wish - I left him alone. Then I did a happy dance!
Last week, in World Literature at Urban Homeschoolers, the kids were using staffs they'd made to drum out the alliteration in a Viking play (have I mentioned how freaking cool this teacher is?). Unfortunately the wooden dowels were not so smooth and Liam was the second kid to get a splinter. It obviously bothered him, but he didn't cry or scream. He tried to work it out, and when it was clear that the splinter would be the all-consuming focus, I took him to the office to beg a pair of tweezers. I offered to take it out, but he refused and carefully, deftly took it out himself.
I had long suspected that things which were frightening for him would become easier when he developed the dexterity to deal with them himself. This is the year that dexterity has met desire and created confidence.
Patience is hard, for all of us, but it has been the key to his growth. In his own time, in his own way, he's developing skills in language, communication and self-care.
Excuse me, I think I feel a happy dance coming on again.