“All right, Seric and America, each of you climb up here on a stool. Here is your paper and the crayons and pencils. Okay. Now—”

Seric (4) and America (3) were wriggling and trying to tickle each other under the chin. Giggles and yells of “No! I'll get you” overwhelmed my voice.

Fidgeting seems to be a necessary function of healthy childhood so I was not frustrated. I put my arms around Seric and leaned forward so that his head was under my chin and his body tight against mine, but not uncomfortably so. Instantly he relaxed and looked straight down at his paper. His wiry little body leaned back against me and wriggled just a little in enjoyment. I had his attention.

“First write your ABCs up here, then down here write your name for me. Then turn the page over and draw me a picture of something you see in this room… like Delaney in her walker… or Rose sleeping there on the couch. Okay?”

“Okay.” One more snuggle-wiggle and a sideways grin upward at me.

“Are you a hug bug?” I laughed at him and kissed his head and then moved over to America.

She was tapping my arm with her pencil, trying to get my attention, knowing that she should be quiet while I was talking. Now I encircled her with my arms and tucked her head under my chin. She bumped her head backward a little to let me know she liked being hugged, but she also would rather have a little more head room. It was an unconscious movement, but one I was aware of. I gave her more room and felt her body relax and focus.

“Here is your name; A - m - e - r - i - c - a. I wrote it very light-colored so that you can trace over it. After you write on top of my writing, then you can try to write it yourself. Then you can turn your paper over and draw me a picture of something that you see.”

“Can I draw a chicken?”

“Sure. Can you remember what the chickens look like?”

“Yes. I saw it… this morning… it… a… a chicken looks like this.”

America stuck her lips straight out in an imitation of a beak, thrust her head forward to lengthen her neck, and waved her arms like wings. I choked back a laugh and nodded as I stood up and moved back to get a better look at the cute chicken.

“Wow. That does look like a chicken. Okay, you can draw a chicken.”