“Emmy, I’m leaving. Have a good day with Joe,” I said, as I was getting ready to go. I went over to where Emma lay under the duvet in our bed with her earphones on listening to one of her favorite songs, The Beatles – Happy Birthday. “I love you, Em.” I said as I bent down to kiss her. She turned her head, as she almost always does, so that I kissed her forehead.
“So much,” Came Emma’s muffled answer.
“I love you so much,” I said, kissing her cheeks. Emma said nothing in response. I waited for a few seconds, “Em, you say – I love you Mommy.”
“I love you…” Emma looked at me as I pointed to myself. “Emma,” she added smiling.
“Not Emma!” I said, kissing her again. “I love…” I pointed to myself.
“Mommy!” Emma finished.
“That’s right Em. I say – I love you Emma and you say – I love you Mommy!”
“I love you Mommy!” Emma echoed, before ducking her head down under the covers.
I went out to the living room. “Bye Nic. I love you.”
“I love you too, Mom,” Nic said without hesitation.
Just another morning in the Zurcher-Long household, such simple things we so easily take for granted, are stumbling blocks for Emma. It’s not only pronouns that trip her up. It’s the simple human niceties we do and say to one another that mystify her too.
After months of prompting, Emma now will say, “I’m fine” in answer to, “How are you?” She understands the rote answer is what is expected and what will suffice.
“Most people really don’t want to know how you really are,” a friend of mine said to me once. “They’re just asking because it’s expected and they don’t want to seem rude. But can you imagine if you answered them honestly. You know, by saying something like: Not so well. I’m struggling with some thorny issues I’d like your advice on.”
I interjected, “Or – let’s sit down, this may take a few minutes.”
“Exactly, I mean that’s why everyone goes to a shrink,” my friend said matter-of-factly.