dar tahoe

On one recent day in Tahoe, two unrelated people met Dar, tried to chat him up, and separately marveled, wow, you’ve really taught him well to never speak to strangers!


That’s an opening joke, not relevant to today’s post.

Today I want to tell you about Dar’s hand-clapping. He doesn’t clap hands like you and me. No, this is where his latent cerebral palsy really manifests itself. He sort of holds his left hand like it has an invisible goblet of wine. Then he hits it with the right hand, which is hooked over from above. If any celebrity did this at an awards show, it would be a meme tomorrow. (See: Brett Favre’s lethargic clap for Caitlyn Jenner.) But it’s just Dar.

He started doing this maybe two months ago. Before that, he had only clapped with deep prompting. This is different. He claps, I clap, he laughs with delight as though tickled. I now try to do it back every time he does it, although I admit that after the first ten or so I can get a little tired. It was perfect during the Warriors games, because hey, we’re clapping anyway to fire up the team (okay, well, more like fire up ourselves). It’s less perfect during, say, the 4-hour drive to or from Tahoe. In that case, I sometimes have to noodge my wife – honey, he’s clapping, can you please clap for him?

Now I know what you’re thinking. Is this a possible new communication system? One clap for yes, two claps for no, three claps for Mommy, four claps for Daddy? (Those are four words that we’ve been waiting seven years for.) Yeah…uh…probably not. But it’s great to see him trying to reach out, and greater to see him happy.

Any behavior that goes beyond the feline is a positive. I love cats, but Dar has tested my love for typical feline behavior. It’s often hard to tell how much Dar would really care if he was removed from his home or parents. So the clapping punctures that cat bubble, and that IS nice.

He even does it with his classmates. I see him walk right up to his peers in first grade and clap, with the clear hope that they’ll respond in kind. They often do. I asked one friend when he started this. “He just started,” she said. “Yesterday?” I said. “No, but not long ago.” “A month, two months?” “I don’t know.” Yeah, I’m not going to grill a 7-year-old harder than that.

A tiny problem is that he doesn’t really respond to it when I initiate the clapping, not even during a Warriors game. I have dearly hoped for a response when Dar is just sitting on the couch feeling listless or worse. I’m a monkey: CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP…and nothing. I can say “Do this,” and he’ll do it (we trained him well!), but that’s not the same.

I realize this is a minor thing. It’s just clapping. But for Dar it’s a new power. And yeah, he’s seven, almost eight. This is just to give you a sense of how glacial Dar’s development really is. (Glacial in the traditional sense, not glacial in the contemporary “wow, there goes Antarctica” sense.)

Still, if I were a San Francisco Chronicle arts reviewer, I’d have to give this milestone this review:

man in chair