When imitation isn’t flattering

My two year old has been in a stage of imitating everyone around her lately.  As these things go, I find it pretty adorable. 

Until she tries to imitate her six year old brother.  Not so cute anymore.

Her brother, Will, was born with a rare chromosome deletion that few kids in the world share.  There are other, more specific labels we use including severe apraxia, probable mitochondrial disorder, and the one presenting the problem here….autism.

So, when we’re driving in the car and I hear Will scripting what he sees on billboards, it’s part of the routine.  Even funny.  But when the two year old begins to imitate his very apraxic speech or name things that simply aren’t there (as Will remembers billboards from months ago), it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

During family movie night, when he starts getting excited and begins to flap a bit, I might smile and rub his back.  Unfortunately, the two year old notices the attention he is receiving and begins to flap as well, thinking it is the coolest new thing.  Whoops.

I’ve tried talking with her, telling her that I enjoy her just the way that she is.  But she’s a two year old.  She imitates.  It’s what they do. She has also noticed, despite my best efforts, that Will gets more than his fair share of the attention at times.

In the past week or so, I’ve seen less and less of this imitation.  In fact, she’s beginning to disagree with him when he is labeling billboards long gone.  (“There no hamburger there.  Will, no hamburger.”)

I should probably be relieved by this, but instead, I’m surprised to find that there’s a part of me that’s not.  I knew it was a stage that would pass.  What I didn’t expect was the pang of sadness I’m feeling at the change. 

Over time, she will begin to realize that his brain works differently than hers, and I’m just not ready for it yet.  So for today at least, I’m enjoying the innocence.

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