I have decided to become an avid observer of my son’s skills and achievements. My approach is now “let’s see what you REALLY can do and go from there.” If I could do this from the comfort of a camouflaged jeep or from behind a line of indigenous vegetation, I would. Alas, our environment calls for sitting at the top of the stairs while J goes about his business “unobserved,” and I usually am given away by the creaking of the wood steps. Being quiet and stealthy has never been my strongest skill set…J knows I’m there a good deal of the time.
The wait-and-see approach, I’m sure, will have its pros and cons, I’m sure. J might decide to hang back and not show his hand right away, but Marlin Perkins was patient and I have to emulate that more than anything else. This is a challenge. I have learned to be more patient over time, but I am not -by any stretch of a generous imagination- a patient person. I love the Twelve Days of Christmas because that way I don’t have to wait ’til Christmas morning to reveal my ingenious choices for people’s presents…although this year we all know this was more of a “how badly did I choose” thing. Observing J is more interesting than watching paint dry, but once he knows you’re doing it he will go out of his way to see “who blinks first.”
Our son has a sense of humor, and he dearly loves to laugh…mostly at us. Last night, baffled at how fully awake and energetic J was at nearly 11 P.M., my husband asked me what I thought could be wrong; well, I told him, he’ll be seventeen in about 3 weeks and he’s keeping the hours of any regular, run of the mill, garden variety, ordinary seventeen year-old. That this will make us wonder if anything is “off” is just icing on the cake for J. “Are you sure?,” my husband asked…and then we heard our son happily humming TLC’s “No Scrubs” to himself from down the hallway. “Yeah, I’m positively sure,” I said.
J has been slow on the uptake, of course, because he is developmentally disabled and this means he’s slightly behind the curve among his peers (ok, it means more than that, but I’m in a Monty Python “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” frame of mind today.) That he will NOW start acting more like his brother at age thirteen shouldn’t be a surprise. That he came downstairs and saw that the kitchen calendar proudly displays the month of January (and whatever the school district deemed an appropriate image to represent this part of the school year) while his Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar upstairs still displays December and the same girl he’s been looking at for over a month shouldn’t come as a surprise either. He went up and down the stairs a few times, stopping at the calendars on both floors and then came to me and gave me a puzzled look that said “where’s my new girl in a bikini? I know these sand patterns already. How come there’s no new girl?” On the list for this weekend’s shopping: new girl for J’s wall.
I have to admit (publicly) that I have been optimistically clueless. I believed that, having navigated self-aggression, I knew what I was up against. I thought that I had a pretty good handle on my son’s adolescent development. I would now like to blow a rather large raspberry at myself because, of course, I was cluelessly optimistic as well as optimistically clueless. What was it that Socrates is credited with saying? I only know that I know nothing? Yeah…that…
From my unobtrusive (HA!) observations yesterday, I can tell you that J needs new shoes, and he’ll prefer slip-ons. This weekend I will take him to search for shoes, and I will only interfere when it comes to price. Another thing I can tell from watching him is that he enjoys his exercises in the afternoons, and that he isn’t eating as much as he used to and no longer “just for the heck of it.” This might be because he worked his way through all his snacks, but it also might be because he has other things to occupy his mind (like the lack of a new girl on his calendar wall or the new routine in the afternoons.)
The measuring cups are working, and we are going to extend this further by parceling out his snacks into small containers that we’ll lay out every morning to indicate portions of rice, pasta, cheese, chips, cookies, crackers and cereal he can consume. The pantry is getting re-arranged, and more thought will be going into what J can access. We have built our dinner menus thinking of what he likes and what cooking process is more appealing to him. If I could find a way to sneak a vegetable into that child (er…young man) without thinking it will unleash The Incredible Hulk, I would. I had a knack, as a child, for identifying liver that my mother would attempt to disguise in many different ways. J has the same talent, but for vegetables. Perhaps if he relates eating broccoli or spinach with something pleasant or with some sort of reward, I might be able to get him to do more than lick it and then not gag like he’s just tasted crap. The gag reflex on that child is something impressive to behold.
The duck is going back to the pond. We have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I need to get ready for that and I need to look up some paperwork for the psych appointment on Tuesday. Glide, glide, glide above the surface…paddle, paddle, paddle below. I am trying to perfect the art of being the duck while observing other ducks…I am trying to be the busy-body duck with the best intentions in the world…and I hope that’s not the easiest way to sink a duck.