My oldest daughter, Mo, is an absolute delight and a total scamp, all bundled in a loquacious and vivacious ginger package. She has many of my best qualities (red hair, jokes, curiosity, verbosity) and few of my worst (stubbornness, cleverness).
I’ve enjoyed being a dad and a parent to Mo (and Zo, my newest daughter). Parenthood is a job all its own, where I’ve worked hard to be a loving example, fair disciplinarian, and patient teacher. But when it comes to teaching, there’s one area where I’m the student.
My daughter teaches me more than I teach her about emotional responses.
When people talk “autism” and “parenting,” I rarely see instances where it’s the parent who’s autistic and working to manage their neurotypical kiddos. So let me share a story from that side.
My wife was distraught, openly weeping during dinner. As she poured out a little bit of her soul through tears, I was speechless. Not from shock, surprise, but just . . . not knowing what words to say. Yet without prompting, Mo reached out, resting her hand on Mom’s knee.
“Mom, is everything OK? I’m sorry.”
Mo is two. And already she gets it at a level that I just don’t. She amazes me.
That’s just one example from the somber side. She’s dropped plenty from a happier side, whether noticing positive changes or making a timely compliment (“Mom, I like your long, pretty eyelashes.”). I’ve had to keep notes, since I need to use these gems at some point and win back a few trays worth of brownie points.
If you need an “emotion” teacher who can lead by example, doing what humans should do, responding with real people emotions: have a daughter.