Outgrowing His Words
Jim always tries to stay one step ahead of Charlie's growing feet by making sure we order the next size up in black nubuck Merrells. I ordered two such pairs in size 11 back in December and I know I'm going to feel that little twinge when I order sizes 11 1/2 and 12—Jim wears a size 11 but Charlie is going to grow out of his all too soon. Charlie's been taller than me for the past two years but Charlie being taller than Jim: We did figure it might, would, one day happen, but it's always a little different when the reality starts staring you in the face as you click the "size" box at Onlineshoes.com.
Since I started blogging regularly again in this space back in September, I realize that most of my posts have been about growing up. It's bittersweet for any parent. We have tons of photos of Charlie but it's only in the past few months that, in looking through them, I've felt, yes, that twinge in knowing that the days of outfitting Charlie in t-shirts with cute pumpkins are over.
(I know I could get him such a shirt, but I'm not so sure if such comes in men's size small…..and Charlie favors shirts in blue, black, and green over orange, red, etc..) (And if you cringe in looking at photos of your younger self in clothes your mother thought adorable but you thought something less, apologies!)
I also realize that I've been chronicling the parenting of a moderately-to-severely-autistic adolescent boy as an often harrowing experience. In looking over some of the things I've written (like this trip to the ER for an infected mouth sore or a really rough Sunday), I suspect that, were Charlie just diagnosed or 5 or even 7 or so years old, I'm not sure I would have wanted to read some of these posts, to know that adolescence can really be as hard it is; to know that, when your child is bigger than you, the days of swooping him (wailing and back-arching) up in your arms are very much over, and a parent must think of other ways to handle wailing and back-arching. The general hope would be that said wailing and back-arching would be over and done with for most children but this has yet to occur for Charlie. By this, I don't mean simply to suggest that he's locked into "behaviors" associated with children much younger than him. We know very well now that Charlie does such things to communicate. We also know how much he wants to communicate, such that he'll go to great lengths. Frankly, it means a great deal to us that Charlie has, and has always had, this steadfast urge to get his point across.
But while we can buy new shoes for his growing feet, providing him with more language that Charlie can call up when he needs: This is far harder than just clicking "buy now" on Onlineshoes.com. In the past couple of months, Charlie has been using no and yes to express a lot more than, well, no and yes—"maybe" or "I want that" or "give me a moment to think about it." As of Sunday, it's occurred to Jim and me that another phrase that's been doing overtime as far as Charlie saying it to mean a lot of different things is "I want to eat." Charlie said that in the car Sunday after our trip to the beach, before getting very upset. He then summarily turned down everything Jim and I offered to get him and only poked at things when we got home.
Monday got off to a slow start (good thing Jim and I still have one more week off before we start teaching). The day unfolded peaceably from school to home and a chilly walk. Charlie did a particularly nice job writing the date and the word "Monday." He was eager to get in the car around 6.15pm for a ride, then, once hom, would not budge from the back seat. He told us "I want to eat" and we reeled off the list of contents of the refrigerator and cabinets, to many "no, no, no" 's. Eventually he came inside, said "no" to sushi and a steaming plate of rice, and told us "bedtime." And went up to bed, very peacefully.
Charlie's new habit is to have a mongo after-school "second lunch/early early dinner" snack; we feel pretty sure that he's just not always hungry as a result for the rest of the day. And we've started to think, when Charlie says "I want to eat," he sometimes really does, and, other times, he's trying to tell us that he wants something, something to satisfy him in a more figurative way, but he doesn't know how else to talk about it—maybe doesn't even know what else this would be.
It's the sweet—sweetbitter?—side of seeing Charlie grow up, knowing that, even with all the challenges, he striving to tell us so much more than he presently has words for.
I suspect that Charlie figuring out the words he needs is a lifelong project, like so much else of his learning.
The days of Early Intervention are far behind us. But, really, Charlie's still at the early stages of the journey, of his learning and education. These, we believe, will continue throughout his whole life.
What am I doing mentioning Palin on this blog that sticks pretty much to chronicling Charlie's life and ours?
I've just started blogging over at Care2.com. I was planning on my inaugural post being about (surprise surprise) autism but current events took precedence, and so I wrote my first Care2.com post about Sarah Palin being hired by Fox News yesterday. I did a bit of blogging and commenting about Palin when she was Sen. John McCain's running mate in the 2008 Presidential campaign, when I was still writing AutismVox. Since ceasing to write for Change.org, I've been glad to return to a more personal sort of blogging and will continue posting daily here. But it looks like I'm getting on my soapbox (or rather, soapvox) again—something new in a new year.
(Along with translating Seneca—very good thing I still have one week off before returning to my classroom.)