In January this year, Allie had started making very deliberate efforts to do things she didn’t want to do, in order to be “nice.” She still does much of her thinking aloud, so this decision would sound something like: When an older girl grabs a publicly accessible toy or playground equipment that Allie was on, Allie would say “I wait. I be nice.” When I tell her to put something down that she really want to hold there is a visible struggle on her face and then it suddenly resolves and she does what she’s told, announcing, “I be nice.” I’d like to think that the “nice” part wins out more often than the resistant part of her. She does volunteer encouragement, such as when I successfully complete a move on one of her learning apps on her iPad, she’d say, “Good job, mama!” And I enjoy the arbitrary compliments of “Mama’s putty” (pretty) and “Dada’s handy” (handsome). As a matter of fact, every female is “putty” and every male is “handy.”

In February and now March, she’s a little more into testing her will. She’ll refuse something not because she dislikes it or truly doesn’t want it, but just to see if she’ll get her way. She may want to go to the park, but she’ll say, “No, I wanna stay home,” just because she wants to be contrary. Unfortunately, she commits to the decision that she’s made without much true opinion behind the commitment. It still works if we just lets her have her protest and then tell her when she’s done, she can let us know, and she’ll get over it in a minute and tell us, “I’m ready now.” Sometimes distraction works. Sometimes reasoning works. But we generally stand firm on not letting her have her way simply because she’s insisting on it. “I’m sorry, Allie, you can’t have more than 2 vitamins a day. You already had two vitamins today. You can have more tomorrow.” “NOOOO, not TOMORROW, want another vitamin NOW!” Meh, it could be worse. She could be insisting on chocolate, which she actually quite dislikes, along with pizza, salty foods, cakes.

Lately, especially in the last couple of weeks, Allie seems very concerned with her affect on others emotionally. She’ll eat something simply to make me happy (which I admit I use to my advantage), so although she may initially refuse a food, she’ll suddenly change her mind and then after she eats it, she’ll announce, “I eat this and make Mama happy!” Or sometimes she’ll simply ask earnestly, “Mama, are you happy? I finished it!” Just within the past week, she has taken to asking on occasion, “Dada, are you happy?” “Mama, are you happy?” She will tilt her head and look us right in the eyes and evaluate our expressions as we answer this question. I’ve decided this is best answered “Yes, I’m very happy,” especially when she’s happy and well-behaved, so that she responds, “I’m happy, too!”, instead of treating it like an existential question. The other day I caught her watching “Mrs. Spider’s Tea Party” on her iPad, a story about a misunderstood spider that all the other insects avoided because they didn’t realize she’s a vegetarian spider until the end of the story, and Allie was repeating parts of the story and saying mournfully, “Awww, she’s sad! Come back, come back! [to the insects running away from the spider] Awww, she’s sad, she’s sad!” and hugging the iPad to comfort the lonely Mrs. Spider.
A bailiff I’m social-networking friends with said about Allie’s displays of empathy, “Well, you know she’s not a psychopath. Or autistic or have Aspberger’s.” Hmm. Never thought of it that way. Mostly I just think about how Rebecca had told me prior to Allie’s birth that she’s “a wonderful person” and she “loves people” and “wants to help.”