Cami’s our best eater, but she refused her food at dinner tonight. Not verbally, of course, because she can’t talk. She just shoved it away. I shoved it back at her and she pushed it back at me so hard I thought it might fly out of my hands. We went back and forth for a while before I finally noticed she was pointing at something insistently. I gave up.
“Fine, Cami, what is it you want? Get up and show me.”
She did. She carefully climbed down from her chair at the table and walked over to the phone, where we had stacked all the presents we’re giving to the girls’ teachers tomorrow. She pulled down the shiny, orange one. A small purse. Earlier that day Erin put a bag of M&Ms inside. I pulled out the M&Ms and asked Cami, “Is this is it? Is this what you want? You want candy for dinner?”
Cami smiled her big, toothless grin and shrieked for joy. I told her it wasn’t gonna happen. That candy was for Elora’s teacher. She insistently stabbed at the bag of candy with her index finger and happy shrieked some more.
Not knowing what else to to, I offered Cami a deal. She couldn’t have the M&Ms, but we did have a miniature candy bar I could give her–but only after she ate her dinner.
Cami looked at me intently, making the kind of eye contact she offers up too rarely. She grabbed her fork, swung her legs under the table, and began eating. A couple bites later, she pronounced herself done by putting down the fork and looking up at me expectantly. The big grin came back.
“No,” I said. “You have to eat the WHOLE dinner.”
Again Cami picked up the fork and started eating. Now, she was chowing down.
I turned to look at Erin, whose jaw sat slacked. I asked her, “Did I just have a conversation with Cami?”
“I think you did,” she said.
Cami ate and ate until all of her chicken and her beans and her rice were completely gone. When she was finished she pushed her plate away and walked over to where she knew we kept the mini candy bars.
“Okay, Cami,” I said. “I’ll get it for you.” She turned around and went back to her seat to patiently wait for me to unwrap the bar. Erin and I, and Elora for that matter, didn’t even know how to process what had happened.
I grabbed Elora’s teacher’s gift, ripped the bag of M&Ms out of it, and poured it into a bowl.
“Tonight,” I said. “Cami gets all the candy she wants.”