Family Magazine

I Want, I Want, I wanna-wanna-wanna-WANT!

By Mmostynthomas @MostynThomasJou


Lately, Isobel has been resisting her food.

On days like these, though, it isn’t her disability playing up, but her displaying characteristic toddler behavior.

How do I know? Because the spoonfuls Isobel refuses at the dining table are usually filled with her favorite foods, the really yummy sort that she can’t get enough of. Stuff like cheesy scrambled egg with ham, porridge, toast soldiers with jam, spaghetti bolognese, chocolate custard, or haddock with potato mash and green veg.

Now, little madam will watch you scoop up a bit with the facade of hunger – and then turn away the moment you approach, digging her heels in if necessary. On the odd day, she will drink nothing but a 200ml beaker of the Paediasure we usually place on standby, regardless of the delicious meal we’ve just invented. One point for nutrition intake, nil points for adventure and variety.

Mealtimes are not the only time Isobel expresses her wants. She will also insist on standing irrespective of the circumstances – usually when you need her to sit down. It’s amazing how she suddenly manages to find her feet on the surface, laughingly, when you make as if to seat her in the floor-sitter or even the Triton chair. And once you get her standing? She’ll start tapping her left foot forward for her walk.

Isobel cries much more frequently too. But it’s not always the heart-rending tears of utter frustration at her own lack of physical access – although of course, the sight of that flushed nose and those huge, brimming eyes still gets me wilting despite myself.

Rather, it’s the melodramatic wail of a three-year-old, the sort that bares her pearly-whites in full. This expression can be inexplicable: one moment she’ll be lapping up daddy’s juggling act and skipping gaily from her seat, the next she bawls – even though daddy hasn’t actually done anything to change his entertainment – and we throw up our palms in bewilderment.

Perplexing though they are, at least Isobel’s toddlerisms indicate that she is learning about emotions, and how to express them – a key part of communication, so a good friend tells me. Isobel finds lifts claustrophobic; once the steel doors clang heavily shut she starts, eyes the size of UFOs, and we have to lay on the reassurance thickly.

She’ll also clamp onto your hand in crowded spaces, nervous around strangers, eyes widening once again – until you start sign-singing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” to her (in self-consciously hushed tones, of course).

Thankfully, Isobel is maintaining her mischievous sense of humour, for the time being. When she starts protesting at the dinner table, we usually respond by copying her exaggerated whine. It really makes her laugh – but I’m afraid to say it doesn’t always work in getting her to eat once again.

Although of course, when the whines get particularly shrill, outwardly I will sigh and plop the spoon back in the dish with exasperation. Hidden somewhere in there, though, is a secret smile of jubilation. Isobel’s act of rebellion is a clear signal that she has a will of her own – an fundamental trigger for future tenacity.

And it is this that distinguishes Isobel’s wants from those of her non-disabled peers. Her intent to think and act independently comes not so much from the desire to have choices in life, as a recognition of her desire to overcome her barriers, and the role that intent plays in facilitating it.

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