“He lost track of his hats…”

The long pants have been brought into the wardrobe right on time.  Rain, rain, rain and cooler temperatures seem to be the order of the day, and a trip to the Buckwheat Festival tomorrow promises outdoor fun galore and the need for warmer clothing.  In the mornings we no longer experience the wistful hesitation of waiting for short pants to materialize…we have, as it were, kissed those goodbye for the time being.

This morning I got a call from J’s teacher to let me know about their field trip tomorrow.  All I hear is how awesome J is and how happily he works all day.  I told her that I’m glad because here we hardly get to see him as he’s constantly shooing us out of rooms.  I told her the A Goofy Movie story and she laughed heartily…oh, my God, she said, that’s so J!!!

A constant drizzle has been falling since mid-morning so TGG and I drove down to wait for J’s bus.  The panicked look of one who thinks he’s going to the doctor immediately took over J’s face.  To prove our intentions were pure, I let him sit in the front seat, and I reassured him we were heading home.  With a sigh of relief and a relaxing of his shoulders, J then indicated to TGG that he wanted music.  The ride home took a minute at most, but J was in command of the radio for that time.  To further solidify the fact that we weren’t going anywhere medical, J announced CLOTHES and then ran up the stairs with such energy and speed that I found myself dreaming of Olympic Games to come.  (If they ever develop an event in which kids come home from school and make themselves comfortable, J is a shoo-in for a gold medal!)

When I pulled out the comm book, I got the same reaction that usually accompanies this action: J looked over my shoulder as if he could read the back-and-forth commentary his teachers and I provide for each other.  Because he can’t read, J then stares intently at my face until I am done so he can tell from my reaction whether he’s in hot water or not.  He is usually relieved when I either laugh or turn to tell him “you’re cool, J…nothing to discuss today.”  I know, J’s level of sophistication wouldn’t call for “discussing,” but that’s the word I use when he’s done something he shouldn’t and I need to address it, so the sound of discuss is specific enough to not taint the meaning of “talk.”

Today the news was excellent.  “J spent most of the day without his hats.  In fact, he lost track of his hats for quite a while…”  J lost track of his hats.  In much the same way he started losing track of his boxing gloves, J lost track of his hats.  I know, mind you, that this might be a rare instance of J being engaged and distracted enough to forget about his beloved headgear, but I am hopeful that, little by little, he will fall in love with the idea of not covering his head constantly. Just like he fell in love with the idea of not carrying bulky boxing gloves around…just like he fell in love with the idea of not sleeping with music playing constantly.

The thing that gets me, though, is that J achieves all these things of his own volition.  We encourage him to make the choices, and he takes his time, but he chooses without our help.  Oh, how we’ve wished we could hide the gloves one by one until they disappear from his consciousness.  In hindsight, if we’d given in to that urge, we might have encountered some tantrums, some discontentment, some aggressiveness, some disappointment.  We accepted the gloves for as long as J wanted them, and he chose when to put them down and use them as decoration on his bed.

Maybe, in a few months, we’ll be saying the same thing about his hats.  Maybe it’ll take a year or two.  Maybe these hats will be replaced by other hats.  I don’t know.  I’m just happy that J is not feeling pressured to mature at a rate that is not his own.  I am glad that I don’t accept the pressure that is sometimes put on us to move him further along than he’s ready to be.  I didn’t experience that pressure when I was growing up, at least not until I was outside of my home.  My aunts, bless them, always reminded me (and anyone who would criticize my “childishness” to their faces) that each person grows up at their own rate and that once you become a grown-up you don’t get to go back and be a child.  If TGG has felt a little more pressure than J, it has been because TGG often balks out of fear rather than lack of maturity or ability.  So often he fears people will laugh at him, and in that he is unfortunate compared to his brother: J doesn’t give a flying fig what others think.  If they don’t like his Slinky, that’s their problem.  If they think his pants are funny, well big whoop-dee-dooh…  J, in his own way, is a lot more self-assured and comfortable in his skin than TGG is, and that might be because J is unaware of the social code, but…the social code pretty much screws us up early on if we pay too much attention to it.

J lost track of his hats today.  They’re firmly planted on his head right now, but for a good long while he didn’t worry about them.  That is progress.  Inch-by-inch progress, but progress nonetheless.  I cannot complain.  Just as I was ready for the boxing gloves to make a comeback after the brave act of giving them up, I’m ready to live with the scrum cap and the Rasta hat for as long as J wants to wear them, but I’m glad he knows the choice is his…


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