I had heard the horror stories. I'd heard about the child with autism who would eat only off a certain plate or drink from a certain cup (never mind the boy who would only, and I mean ONLY, eat pretzels and soda). I'd heard about the mom who always had to drive a certain way to school or risk a tantrum and lots of stories about kids who, while being not very verbal, could recognize brands and logos a mile away and would NOT let you buy this type of macaroni and cheese or that type of juice.
I'd heard it all, so from the beginning I've tried to always subtly "bump" Ethan out of his little routines. He has this thing, for example, about shutting his own door when he gets out of the car. Not an issue, one would think, but I can always feel when it's becoming an issue. Usually that's right around the time he starts shoving me aside and saying, "Ethan close it!" Just a dose of little ego, one might think? Yes and no. Would a typical kid, when denied the opportunity, then cry for five minutes or even ten? Maybe, but probably not. I just seem to have this "sensor" that goes up when I can feel he's getting obsessed, and then I know: time to change it up.
"Mommy's closing it this time, buddy," I told him yesterday when we got home from school. I could see his face crinking up into the pre-sob pose. Once I shut it, the tears and wailing began. I picked him up as a fumbled with the key to get into the house. "It's okay, Eth," I whispered in his ear, rubbing his back. "Sometimes mommy just has to do things that are going to help you. I know it's hard."
In a flash, suddenly my son was ME. I could see distinctly the way I whine and sob and lament because things are different, because I'm being stretched, because it's not comfortable anymore (just see my "Hello and Goodbye," "Painting Pictures of Egypt" post).
It reminds me of one of my favorite moments in the Narnia books -- in Prince Caspian, to be exact. Lucy has finally reunited with Aslan, the great lion. The last time she'd seen him, he'd swooped in and attacked their enemies and everyone essentially lived happily ever...for awhile. When she first sees Aslan again and finds out this time he is expecting more of her, they have this exchange:
"Oh dear, oh dear," said Lucy. "And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you'd let me stay. And I thought you'd come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away -- like last time. And now everything is going to be horrid."
"It is hard for you, little one," said Aslan. "But things never happen the same way twice."
This is what it means to grow. And the next time I dare to lose too much of my temper with Ethan, when he is reluctant to budge from familiar territory, this is what I must remember. He's not the only one who has trouble at times with inflexibility and changes in routine.
"Aslan, you're bigger," Lucy says to the Lion, just a bit earlier in the story.
"That is because you are older, little one," he answers.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow you will find me bigger."
And the more we learn, the more that is expected us. We can hear it said a million times, we can know it, but that doesn't make living it any easier. There's no doubt about it, whether your 3 or (gulp!) almost 36 -- stretching hurts.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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