Kicking and Being (#97)

The therapist drew a stick figure (on the left) and asked Charlie to copy it, which he did (on the right). It looks to me like he tried his hand at each part–the circle head, the dot eyes and nose, squiggle mouth, and the rest of the lines for the body, arms, and legs. Due to his trouble coordinating his fingers and his difficulty getting both eyes to focus on the same object simultaneously (especially at close range?), the result is a little wobbly.
Charlie’s drawing does give a record not only of how he might look out at the world, but also of how he tries to represent it for himself. He knows he is supposed to “do this,” to imitate what the therapist or teacher does. Something happens to the message that his brain sends to his body en route and what his hand draws is barely a copy to some eyes. Or, perhaps it is that the message that comes into his mind is not the same, or is not understood the same as among the majority of people, and his picture ends up out of kilter.

It is good to see what Charlie can produce independently with marker and paper, rather than with hand-over-hand prompting. The picture drawn with someone helping will probably be more perfect, more faithful to the original, but this almost-copy done by someone else’s hand tells us little about how Charlie perceives things.

Charlie’s whole day was different from the usual pattern of things due to his not having school (because of Rosh Hashanah). He slept in and hung out with Jim, who took him to the town barbershop. Charlie’s stomach was empty and also bothered by an insect bite on his neck, he went at the barber with his mouth, but still sat for a buzz cut. He and Jim had a fine time eating hamburgers on the train and PATH into Jersey City where (just as Jim planned for me) I picked up Charlie on Kennedy Boulevard. Jim proceeded back to Journal Square to teach while Charlie called for “home house.” Excited that his therapist was coming soon, Charlie hung out on my neighbor’s lawn and looked up the street for her silver car.

“Brown noodles” was Charlie’s request for dinner. We were out of his usual food stand-bys–rice cakes, “brown chips,” “orangesss”–so we went to the grocery store, where Charlie gleefully selected a Variety Pack of sushi. “You can have brown noodles OR sushi for dinner,” I said. Charlie usually gobbles down the sushi as soon as he can find the pack in the brown paper bag so the thought of him refraining from eating it was going to be huge.
“I want brown noodles” said Charlie and, inbetween cooking for him, I did a minor ballet act and hid the sushi in one of his lunch boxes. He ran off to lie on the couch after his dinner then, for the rest of the evening, occasionally said “sushi” and looked at me hopefully. “How about we try saving it for lunch tomorrow?” I asked. Charlie frowned. Favorite foods are immediate pleasures for him and “waiter later” is not allowed. At 9.30pm, eagerly awaiting Jim’s return, Charlie said “sushi” with a laugh and ran up and down the room. His exuberance continued when we tucked him in bed, only to hear a very loud stomping on what we presumed was the wall.

When I went up to put away laundry, I discovered that Charlie had kicked out a section of the plaster (which was all over his sheet and blanket), down to the wood. He was starting to pull away bits of the wall and Jim and I quickly got cardboard and duct tape to cover the hole. Jim made plans to fix it this weekend and Charlie ended up in our bed–smiling–after he pulled down the cardboard. I changed his sheet and shook out his blanket and hugged him. All while he was kicking I had been worrying. Charlie is going to be with me in at least one of my classes tomorrow after repeated efforts to find a babysitter and–he has been so good and peaceful of late! but in a college classroom….–I was over-verbalizing my anxiety to Jim, worn out from his daily commute. (That might be an understatement.) “At least it was his feet not his head,” we said to each other.

So there’s a hole in his wall: We can fix it. Charlie’s kicking feet made it as he let out his strong feelings. I know what we need to do is to teach him other, less destructive, more productive ways of expressing himself so he can be the boy he is. Like drawing. Like talking. Like writing.


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