Something struck me over the weekend when I took Faith and her younger siblings to a theme park.
It is very precious to see her smile and very hard to capture on camera because it comes and goes so quickly.
Faith’s autism means she spends a lot of time sucking her tongue. It’s her sensory thing, her way of coping with the world around her.
So when she smiles, it’s like a ray of sunshine. You know she must be very happy. Happy enough to forget sucking her tongue for a moment, happy enough to overcome her sensory problems, and just smile with delight.
It is such a raw and pure moment to me.
It’s even harder to photograph her in a family photo. She finds it hard to keep still. She doesn’t always look at the camera. “Close your mouth, Faith! Look at Papa’s camera! Haha!” we would say, in vain.
She hears us and tries to smile but it always comes out squinty. It’s very cute.
It is almost as if her brain cannot tell her mouth to smile. Her smile has to be unconscious.
We take smiling for granted. It comes so easily to us. We can even fake-smile when we are sad or angry inside.
But Faith smiles for real. She can’t fake it. She cannot consciously smile on cue. She has to work through so many roadblocks in her nervous system to get that smile out.
And then once in a while, in a family photo moment, she reaches out and touches your face. Another thing my non-verbal firstborn doesn’t do often.
And that’s when you feel her love and affection in that one awkward touch. And you smile too, covered in the warm rays of her sunshine.
This article originally appeared on my Medium blog.