February 4, 2011

The Five W’s

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 9:47 am by autismmommytherapist

“Zachy, get over here NOW!!” I yell at my son’s retreating form, little legs pumping ridiculously fast around our house, his tightly clutched Jessie, Woody and Buzz dolls perilously close to being left behind in his wake. It’s only 9:13 AM on yet another snow day (apparently, Jersey has relocated to Canada and someone forgot to tell me), and I’m experiencing my third fruitless attempt to corner my child onto his potty seat. I’m already completely over this day (and at the moment, children in general), and the fact that my three-year-old can outrun his middle-aged mama is only pouring salt into the already gaping wound of unpredicted child care. I finally corner him on the couch, airlift him and his screaming protests to our half bath, and attempt to partially disrobe him without relegating baby Jessie to the  cold calm of our toilet.

After a few foiled attempts that almost land my child into the depths of the porcelain god I admit defeat, scoop him up, and tell him he’s going to time-out. This is met with a predictable amount of resistance, coupled with a parting gift of “No Mom, YOU GO TO TIME OUT!” as I dump him unceremoniously onto the black chair that is our current receptacle for bad behavior. I take a deep breath and turn away, trying desperately to locate my “happy place” that at this moment could only have existed pre-child, and march into the kitchen to check on Justin. He throws his arms around me, smiles, then goes back to entertaining himself with his DVD player (he is SO my favorite at this moment), and I unclench my hands as I realize there’s still eleven (yes, I’m counting) hours left until bedtime. I really don’t see myself hounding him to pee twelve more times today without having to break out the wine far too early (although it’s almost 5:00 PM in Paris, I’ll have to keep that in mind), and I realize a new measure must be taken in order for me to retain some semblance of my flagging sanity. I am mentally calculating how long I can keep him on his wooden throne without having the added bonus of carpet cleaning, when it hits me.

He wants ME to go to time-out?  Fine. He’s going to hear about my two trips to the naughty chair (I was the first child and a girl, cut me some slack here) from MY mother, and then he’ll surely see the error of his ways.

That’ll get him.

I retrieve the phone from the last place I left it and punch in my mom’s numbers, praying not only that she’ll pick up, but that she’ll play along. I stride back into the living room to be greeted by a grand “HARRUMPH!” from my youngest child, complete with arms and legs crossed and sour expression upon his small, and at this moment, entirely irritating countenance. The phone rings and rings, and just as I resign myself to extra loads of laundry my mom picks up, and I put her on speaker. Zach loves his grandma and (for the most part) listens to her commands without reservation, and I silently pray that he’ll want to engage in this conversation, and that she’ll get the point. I start out by having to prod him to say “hi” to her which doesn’t bode well for our exercise, but eventually he’s intrigued by the concept of talking to her, and he begrudgingly takes the proffered phone.

I look him straight in the eye and say “Grandma, did you ever have to put Zach’s mommy in time out?”  He sits up straighter, intrigued by the concept of mommy gone bad, and stares back at me as my mom says “Yes, Zach, when your mom was a little girl and did bad things, she went to a time-out chair too.”

A look of shock passes over my son’s face, either from the concept that I too was a miscreant of society, or that I once was a little girl. At this point, I’m not certain which is more fascinating.

“Grandma, why did Mommy go there?”

“Sometimes she was a bad girl, Zach.”

“What did she do wrong?”

“She didn’t listen to her Mommy.”

“Who is her Mommy?”

“I am. I’m your Mommy’s mommy.”

He’s been told this many times before, but I can see that it has finally sunk in. His eyes light up in amazement, then he apparently moves on, and says “where are you, Grandma?”

“At my ‘real’ house, honey” (not to be confused with Grandma’s beach house, the existence of which has already created great confusion for Zach, as he couldn’t understand how anyone could live in two homes. Since he loves it there, I am confident he will get over it).

“When are you bringing me Grandma brownies?”, which of course is the main point of any conversation he has with my mother, because chocolate rules here, and he is most certainly his mother’s son.

“Soon honey. Next time I see you.”

This response meets with his approval, and I thank my mom for backing me up with this attempt at discipline, and sever our connection. We run through the typical “sorry mom for not listening”/hug/kiss/”I’ll never do it again” (the last of which, sadly, is a blatant lie), and I free him from his stationary bondage, after which he promptly runs out of the room to harass his brother.

Ten hours, fifty-two minutes to go.

I rally myself with the promise of tiny, frozen Reeses Pieces from heaven awaiting me patiently in my freezer, and make my way to the kitchen to play referee. It’s going to be a trying day, but I have to smile anyway, because this is the longest stretch of dialogue incorporating “wh” questions without prompting that my son has ever had. Sure, he conducted it in the naughty seat, and it’s doubtful the way this day is playing out that I’ll even retain the scene long enough to share it with my husband, but it happened. Not just a sporadic why here or there, or it’s popular twin when, the latter of which appears repetitively whenever the potty or bedtime is mentioned. No, today I got them all, all five of the major players in a row, those cornerstones of dialogue that would enable him to ask for directions if he wasn’t male, perhaps encourage him in the future to inquire as to the mental health of his mother, and hopefully, one day, allow him to get the girl. All five of those tiny interrogatives, cloaked in conversation, wrapped up in a bow of promise.

Who, what, where, when, and why.

January 26, 2011


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:26 am by autismmommytherapist

“Put the dragon song on again Mom!” Zach yells as he rounds the corner and barrels into me, face flushed from the exertion of chasing his middle-aged mother around the house. I grab him around the waist and haul him upside down (an act I have the sneaking suspicion I will have to forego in the coming year or risk the need for physical therapy), briefly tickle him, and release him laughing to our welcoming couch. I know he’s referring to “Puff the Magic Dragon”, because we’ve heard it at least a thousand times recently, once we both discovered the book I’d bought a year ago had an accompanying CD “hidden” on the last page. I’m glad we have the written word as companion to the songs, as this experience would be totally depressing without that last illustration of Puff making a new friend. Over the last few days I’ve wondered if years ago I’d had the book along with the record, or if I had completely glossed over little Jackie Paper’s defection with the cruel indifference of childhood. Without this last page, I would now find this story’s conclusion as devastating as the one from Toy Story Three.

We all know how well I fared with THAT ending.

I’ve discovered once again how to use our ridiculously intricate stereo system (in my defense there are multiple components, as clearly one should only ever listen to Loverboy on vinyl), and I quickly slip in the CD and crank the volume as loudly as possible without alarming the neighbors. Zach turns to me, shoves Buzz, Woody, and “Baby Jessie” into my arms, and commands me to dance with them, as he grabs the fake baby he’s adopted and twirls around the room after me. This remains entertaining for approximately forty-seven seconds, after which he drops his faux infant on the floor and orders me to turn off the music, remembering, through his bossiness, to say “please”. I comply, turn to him, and say “what are we doing now, sweetie?”, and he looks up at me as he steps on his abandoned child’s face and says “tell me the story of Goodnight Coconut Pirate, Mom”.

Sure hon. It’s on the tip of my tongue.

I scramble around in my brain for the creativity I used to possess, that font of originality that seems to have disappeared along with my ability to remember where I put my keys, or how many carbs I’ve consumed in one day. He’s on a big pirate kick lately, and I’m certain the recent literary references to those swashbuckling buccaneers has triggered this need for a tale about them, but I’m not quite certain where the coconut part comes in. As it turns out, my husband is deathly allergic to them. Perhaps Zach is conjuring this up from the conversation his father and I had recently, the one where my spouse politely inquired if I was trying to kill him after he saw my often-ignored recipe book open to the page for coconut shrimp. Jeff and I are still adjusting to the fact we have to watch what we say around this particular child, as this one can actually repeat our conversations, apparently verbatim.

Yet another example of our fine parenting skills.

I scooch down onto the carpet with my back against the couch, gather the Toy Story posse around me, and throw a blanket around us to buy me some time. I figure if my rendition of GCP includes a sword fight, a tough lady pirate (no damsels in distress in this house), and an ending which includes grandma brownies and juice for the marauding invaders, we’ll be fine. I’ll just have to jazz it up a bit with some of my “special voices”, and make sure to keep the action going. Hey, he’s three. Stories don’t require the layered plotlines of a Lost episode (I know, another reference, but I’m still in mourning, bear with me).

I begin with my best “crazy pirate voice” (Disney will be knocking at my door any day now), and commence a captivating tale about a pirate who in a stunning coincidence has the same name as my youngest son, when Zach shoots up from his “snuggle position” and interrupts me. “Mom, and then the pirate Zachary rescues Justin from the bad pirates, and Goodnight Coconut pirate and his friends  go home. The end!”  I smile at his enthusiasm, ready to jump in with a new episode, but my son beats me to it. For the next five minutes he regales me with several different variations on a theme, all with the central character of our hero, “CP”, victorious in the end, with every adaptation including a variety of settings, dialogue, and characters. Granted, Coconut Pirate ends up in time out quite frequently, and the vast majority of his conversations end with one or another of the participants apologizing, but for the most part Zach does not infuse his life experiences within the chapters. They are completely original creations, totally unscripted from other stories.

He is using his imagination.

Over the past year-and-a-half the return of his language skills has been a source of constant wonderment to us (I’ve often said he should wear a sign on his chest stating “results not typical”), and his play skills have also kept up with his language acquisition. For the most part however, the skits he puts on with his toys, the scenarios he enacts with his creatures and figurines, have been extracted wholly from scenes he’s watched or had read to him dozens of times, his favored segments from Thomas the Train, Cars, or the Toy Story trilogy. I’ve been through them so many times I know exactly what to do and say now, would not dare to deviate from the appointed script, know I’ll be chastised if I do. “No Mommy, he doesn’t SAY THAT!” is a frequent refrain here, as I’ve tried desperately to infuse a bit of life into the same old story just to save my sanity. Zach hasn’t wanted me to orchestrate anything new, has actually been upset when I’ve tried. There have been no points for creativity in this house.

Until today.

Eventually he tires of this new activity and wants me to read to him from “real books” again, and accompanies this request with a demand for juice and pretzels. I happily rise to placate him, mind spinning as I question whether that ancient tape recorder of mine still works, wondering if I can get him to repeat the last ten minutes another day so we can write these stories down, give them a permanent life of their own.

Hell, he’ll probably be published before I am.

I return with snack and liquids in tow, and as we sink into one another, close to our pile of beloved books, I tell him how proud I am of him. I tell him that we should write these stories down, that he’s an author now, just like the people whose names are written on the covers of his favorite tales. I remind him that just like books allow us to travel in our minds, a fact for which I am eternally grateful now that I’m generally restricted to the four walls of our house, writing enables us to make voyages as well, to set foot in places we’ve never seen, enjoy experiences we thought we’d never have. He smiles up at me, used to my ramblings, opens up The Grouchy Ladybug and says with a slight air of impatience “Just read Mom”. Spell broken, but the moment remains. My child has spun me a brand new story.

My son used his imagination today.