Autism Land’s Next Top Model

19 08 2008

Sometimes, when I go to look at myself in the mirror, all I can see is Roo. Literally. More often than not I have to push her out of the way just so I can see how obvious the spit-up stains on my shirt are, and to be sure that no-one drew a Fu Manchu on me as I slept. That child is always standing, or more accurately, strutting in front of the mirror. Or the finger-and-face print covered glass of the patio door. Or our giant television, which she will intentionally turn off so she can gaze at her little ol’ self in the shiny blackness of the screen. And I’m pretty sure her reluctance to use cutlery is rooted in the desire to stare at her reflection in the idle concave of her spoon so she can see what she looks like eating upside down. Vanity, or insanity? I’m not sure. But I do know that it’s all my fault.

From the time Neener and Roo were about a year old, they’ve been surrounded by mirrors. Our home was full of them for very good reasons. Because of some early signs of potential oral motor problems, I figured Roo was going to need some speech therapy. So I took it upon myself to get a jump on it, to ease my fears that we’d be left languishing on a waiting list. The suggestion I got from our Occupational Therapist was mirrors. Sit with her in front of a mirror and make faces. So we did. We secured mirrors to the walls, right at little person’s eye level, so Roo could sit and stare at her own face. Then later, so she could watch herself move, to improve her sense of where her body was in space and help her gross motor development and co-ordination. Another reason for the mirrors was the fact that their strategic placement allowed me to spy on my kids. It was the next best thing to having extra eyes surgically implanted in the back and sides of my head. The big horizontal mirror affixed two feet off the floor on the living room wall let me see into every corner of the room from my supper-making vantage point at the kitchen counter. And the one on the playroom wall gave me a great view of any doings as they transpired, from the comfort of my computer desk. So, mirrors were a big part of our surroundings, and looking in them was a big part of our life.

And then there’s me. I’m guilty of being a bit of a mirror hound myself. When I go window shopping, I never actually see what’s in the store windows because I’m too busy looking at my own reflection. And when I was a kid, I spent extended periods of time, lost in the bathroom mirror, looking at myself. And talking to myself. Conducting interviews with myself, actually. About my thoughts on anything and everything, including, but not limited to how I got famous enough to warrant so many hours of interviews. I was preparing for my future career as a celebrity, ok. And when a delightfully sycophantic interviewer with TV crew in tow comes knocking on my door, wanting to know my top 10 favourite song lyrics of all time and why, I’ll be ready. More than ready. And I’ll know exactly what I look like when I’m giving those answers.

Like I said, it’s all my fault. I gave Roo abundant access to the reflective surfaces, and now she’s following in my self-obsessed footsteps. And she’s not just looking at herself. She’s posing. Flipping her hair and grinning. Winking as she strikes a sassy hands-on-hips stance. Sucking in her cheeks and batting her eyelashes. Checking herself out on any surface that will bounce her beauty back to her. And Roo is beautiful. Unlike me, she is very photogenic. Actually, everyone else in our family is photographically challenged. I can magically make three extra chins appear in the blink of a lens. Mr. is the king of big fake crazy hyena smiles. And Neener, despite being Roo’s identical twin, has a knack for looking a little drunk, with one eye half open in almost every picture. Even Squiggles is prone to Franken-baby shots. Now, that’s not to say we don’t have our moments. Every once in a while we all manage to pull off a nice picture. But for Roo, it’s not the exception, it’s the rule. And I think she knows it. Unlike me, I don’t think she’s obsessing, looking for reassurance, trying to allay her insecurities. I think she’s genuinely admiring herself. Adoring herself. And though I hope she eventually graduates to interviewing herself in preparation for sharing her beautiful brains with the world, instead of just staring at herself being cute, I can totally see her being plenty content sticking to the hair-flipping, cheek-sucking, sassy hands-on-hips posing. So, I might be raising a Next Top Model contestant here. Not my first choice, but since when do my kids follow any sort of plan I’ve concocted? I suppose there are far worse things for a girl – any girl, let alone a girl on the Autism Spectrum – to aspire to be.  Remember Heather from ANTM? Yeah, I’d be ok if my kid turned out like her.

From the time Roo was a baby, people always commented on her eyes. How her eyes seemed to be looking into your soul, or looking right through you. But now, I think I understand that. It’s not that she’s looking through you. She’s looking past you. Scanning over your shoulder for a chance to see her reflection in a car window, an oven door, or the little metal bit on a light fixture. Or, if she’s doing the soul searching eye-contact thing, maybe it’s because you’re wearing glasses. Or, she’s looking deep into your bright, shiny, glassy eyes to catch a glimpse of the thing that means the most to her: her self. And really, she has every reason in the world to love what she sees.

Now if only she’d get the hell out of my way so I can get in front of that mirror and finish my interview about how I got all these spit-up stains on my shirt.

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7 responses

19 08 2008
mammasaidtome

She sees souls and when she looks into your eyes there is no hiding!

20 08 2008
Jody

Hahaha I so have the picture that should accompany this post…remember that day that we went to that kids dealie downtown that ended up in a ER trip?? Her with her sucked in cheeks…all kind sof poses…I’ll try to find them tonight and email them to you!!

20 08 2008
Jody

And Heather from ANTM was my favorite!

20 08 2008
domesticblister

I’ve now got dozens of the sucked-in cheek pictures. No idea where she got that. However, the twisting her shoulders, sucking in her belly and sticking out her chest and butt pose, however, I do believe she learned from me.

20 08 2008
domesticblister

Oh and I think Heather was everyone’s fave on ANTM. Smart, stunning, and able to work the camera like nobody’s business, but not catty, conniving, or backstabbing like the rest of them.

20 08 2008
Lisa

Is Heather the tall one with the haunting eyes and dealing with some form of autism? If so, I liked her, too.

There’s nothing wrong with a little vanity, I say. Of course you don’t want your li’l model-to-be all puffed up and snooty but I am sometimes envious of kids and adults who are super-confident and proud. I’ll be looking for Roo in season XXIII of CNTM. (-:

20 08 2008
domesticblister

Yep, that’s Heather.

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