Faith loves her little Elmo's World Boombox. It's like a mini-boombox with just one red button. She likes it so much, she would keep playing the songs in it till it drives us crazy. There is only this much "Elmo's World" you can listen to before you want to punch someone in the nose. Even baby Joy can mouth the "La-la, La-la" part now.
At age 5 going on to 6, Faith is still playing with toys meant for 1 to 2-year-olds. We've gotten used to this quirk of her autism and developmental delay. At the very least, she can share the same toys with her youngest sister, Joy, now 14 months.
Interestingly, I have seen this toy adapted for special needs kids, with a plug at the back to accommodate a standard 1/8" special needs switch, so it must be quite popular with special needs kids elsewhere too.
Faith may adore it but not knowing that things break when sent hurling a long distance, she hurled it a long distance. Vertically.
After I retrieved it, Elmo didn't sing anymore. And Faith kept pressing the big red button to no avail. She looked to me for a solution because somehow she felt Papa could fix things. I felt a little helpless despite her faith in my toy repair skills.
Desperate, she dragged me by my finger, and made me press the big red button.
"Wai ya wai ya wai ya," she babbled in her own simple language that only she understood, making me press the big red button again and again. But you knew what that meant: "Make it work again, Papa, make it work."
I tried to explain that it was broken. And that Papa will try to get a new one for her. But I'm not sure how much she understood but was happy she was even trying to communicate with me.
In the evening, while the kids were at the in-laws, I went over to the nearby mall to look for a replacement. They had every Elmo toy but that one. In the end, I picked out a toy Cookie Monster saxophone for her.
When we got home, Faith looked for her Elmo toy again where she last saw it (her memory of these things amazes me) but I had already put it out of sight. No point letting her be disappointed with a broken toy.
The Cookie Monster saxophone kept playing in my backpack, when the buttons were depressed by accident, and she went over to investigate. I let her have it, and she seemed quite pleased with it. But then Isaac came along and decided it looked fun, and took it away, pretending to blow into it like a real saxophone. I made him return it to his older sister, but by then, she was already playing with something else. A small plastic ball, which she threw around the living room.
I picked her plastic ball up and threw it back at her. "Throw to Papa, Faith!" I said.
And she threw it back my way. And we played ball for a while.
Later, I realised we were engaged in social play and turn taking. A very rare thing to see in autistic kids who prefer to play alone.
Sometimes your favourite things get broken. Sometimes even Papa cannot fix it. But you accept what's broken, fix what you can, and adapt to what you can't, and in doing so, you discover new joys in simpler things. Like playing ball.
It's amazing what your kid can teach you.