Camille might look just like her dad but in terms of personality she's my clone. I told H, just now, that Camille is going to provide endless amusement for the rest of my life. It's a little strange, but fun, to be around someone who is so much like you but also their own little person. There is much that I can predict but an equal amount that catches me off balance.
I still remember the day Camille was born (just as I do for all of them). Camille's birth was by far my hardest. 14 hours of labor...most of it utterly inactive. I had to go on a drug to speed up the labor after five hours of nothing. When the small amount didn't work, they jacked it to the highest, leaving me with the worst contractions I have ever felt. One right after the other. Add to this a nurse determined to give me an epidural, it was pretty horrible. But she was finally born, rushed away from me to make sure she was okay. I could hear her wail from across the room, and I kept asking "What is it?" I didn't know the gender but I hoped it was a girl. And when H whispered that we had a girl, I started to cry. I had my little girl, Camille. She was a fierce curious one right from the beginning. She was also beautiful with a full head of thick black hair, and big beautiful eyes that turned dark, like Horacio's very quickly.
Now she's a six year old wonder full of life, spunk, and attitude. No one messes with Camille, and when they do she turns on them with her ferocious glare. She has a look that is a replica of my own angry look. The look that stops people cold, and makes them stammer for a minute.
And yet she is so sensitive. She cries easily. She hurts easily. She feels rejection intensely and you can see the pain it cause her. This is hard because Camille does not have the social skills of most kids her age. When she was two we put her into a part time preschool. It was a great preschool, liberal, open, and free-spirited. But Camille did not thrive. At one point, a teacher asked us if Camille didn't speak English. She was making no connection with the other kids or with the teachers. When I picked her up, she was always having a good time but it was always on her own, away from the other kids who did try to befriend her in their toddler like ways. But Camille wanted nothing to do with them. I was worried that she had autism but everyone who knew her thought I was nuts.
Flash forward to Kindergarten. Camille at this point desperately wants girl friends. She wants friends who sleep over and who invite her to sleepovers. But she can't seem to make friends. Her approach is awkward, and the other kids respond to that awkwardness with rejection. I watched as little girls turned their backs on her. I'll never forget the day she approached a group of little girls, said "Hi!" in her in the face kind of way, only to have them turn their away on her. She looked at me, and her face fell, tears rolling down her cheeks. It broke my heart. Watching your child in this kind of emotional pain is dreadful. I watched more closely after this incident, and kept trying to talk to her teacher about what I was seeing. She spent recess on the bench with the teachers, she lied to us about having friends at school. Her social skills did not improve with time.
And then I met a friend whose son has Asperger's. After spending time with her son, and having read the links she so graciously sent me, I started to realize that maybe Camille had Asperger's. The little boy is wonderful like Camille, and like Camille has what I see as a delightful eccentricness. But I also see the pain as he struggles to connect with other kids. In some ways it was comforting to finally see another child act like Camille. To have another parent say "Oh yeah so and so does that all the time." And feel like Camille was not a freak. To feel like maybe we could do something to help her.
Because really I don't want her to change. I love Camille's personality. It's funny, witty, and ironic in a way I don't see in many children. But I also know that if she wants to connect with other people she needs help in learning social cues, body language, and empathy. I feel like knowing what we can do to help her will also help us to help Camille not change in order to make friends.
Camille's wit, and her playfulness is so sophisticated. I love watching her talk to H with an intent seriousness bent on proving that his silliness is just not true. But then she'll turn on us both with some sardonic comment that leaves us stunned but smiling. "Daddy's a monkey. And mama is a...a..a princess!" And then she'll laugh at her own creation of us. I love listening to her talk to our friend's child because they both sound like a 60 year old couple having a very important conversation....about Pokemon.
And when she runs out dressed in various dress up clothes, pleased with her new image, she'll pose for us...and when we tell her she's beautiful, wonderful, she just smiles and says "I know."