"So I was really angry, lor, when they did that blogging article that way, it was as if someone took an issue that had many sides to it, and made it completely one-sided, and not a single mention of A*Star's heavy-handedness," I complained to the wife, as she settled the children down for some family time.
"Uh-huh," she nodded, not really listening, "pass me that Wiggles book, Faith likes it."
We rushed home from a quick dinner at the Japanese restaurant, the one on the first floor of Market Street car park, so that we could spend some time with the kids before their bedtime. Usually, Friday would be a date night for us, but lately, with the wife feeling tired so easily, we didn't go out much.
We placed Isaac next to Faith on the sofa, and let Faith choose which page she wanted to read. She has been very into books lately, really looking at them, and flipping the pages herself, instead of the usual destruction she inflicts on the books. It was obvious that the books were no longer just objects of sensory stimulation to her, things to be crumpled and destroyed, but objects with interesting pictures and words in them.
She turned to a page filled with her favourite Wiggles characters, and grabbed my finger, moving it from one picture to another. She chose the characters she recognised from more than three years of watching their videos.
Each time she put my finger on a picture she wanted, I would read out the name of the character, and also sing a little song that the character usually sang.
"That's Dorothy the Dinosaur... and that's Captain Feathersword, the Friendly Pirate."
Her grip on my finger was firm and her aim was precise. This skill of joint attention is an important precursor to children developing Theory of Mind. Children start getting this skill after 12 months, but for autistic children like Faith, it takes a lot longer.
Most of the time, she dwelled on the easily recognisable characters, like Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus, Wags the Dog, The Big Red Car, and Captain Feathersword. The four leads of the Wiggles are distinguished mainly by the colour of their sweaters -- Greg (Yellow), Murray (Red), Jeff (Purple) and Anthony (Blue) -- and she had some trouble telling their cartoon drawings apart, so she did not point to them very often.
Isaac enjoyed this too, and tried to grab the book from her, or push her away.
"Share, boy, we have to share," we said to him whenever he did that.
Whenever Isaac tried to muscle in, Faith pushed him back. It was funny to watch her use her longer reach and arm to hold him away.
Isaac also grabbed my finger to point to the pictures, following his sister's lead. He didn't really need to do this, because he already had advanced pointing skills (he is able to point at a bird far away and say, "bird" to you). I got a little confused moving between Faith and Isaac's guiding of my fingers.
After a while of doing this, Isaac started to dance whenever I sang a song after each character Faith pointed to. He knew the songs and the dance moves very well, his imitation skills already exceeding his sister's.
We laughed at his antics, and sang more songs, as many as we could remember from the more than 10 Wiggles DVDs we had.
Soon Mommy got tired, and we decided to send the kids to bed too. My heart suddenly felt heavy when I watched Isaac's back as he was led to his room by the lure of his milk bottle.
I heard myself say, "My son."
I remembered a conversation I had with a friend, about a young man who was stabbed to death. He was someone else's son too. And as I looked at my own son, so small, still learning about the simple joys of singing, dancing and spending time with his parents and sister, I wondered how the mother of that slain man felt. I felt so heavy-hearted, I was not even sure if I was up to meeting up with Ben later for a drink.
And then, I remembered what my wife said when we were in the midst of playing with the children. A word she has been saying a lot of lately.
Yes, it is, indeed.
Life, living, playing, learning, watching your children grow, seeing them point, reading a silly picture book with them, and singing silly songs on a Friday night.
All of this. Priceless.