Spring Break, Day 1: The Great Communicator

Charlie on one of five walks on a rainy day Monday was Day 1 of Charlie's Spring Break. Monday being the day when I teach pretty much straight through the hours of 9am – 3pm, yesterday was very much a "dad 'n' son" morning and afternoon. 

Charlie went to sleep past 11pm on Sunday and we figured he'd sleep in. Silly us: He woke at 6am and was ready to hop in the car a half-hour later. I suggested, or rather encouraged, that he try a walk. It took a bit of negotiating but we were off and running down the block ten minutes later. The grassy field we cross in the last stretch of the walk was a big mud puddle. Good thing we have multiple pairs of black slip-on shoes in sizes 10 1/2 and 11, not to mention a lot of socks (shared by Jim and Charlie.)

I got dropped off at the train by ten to 8 and walked to my college in rain and around a mega-puddle. Jim and Charlie did some Adventuring, touring around central Jersey after getting breakfast bagels (and a piece of crumb cake that I found smashed into the right side of the back seat—beware if you ever sit back there). Jim drove up to Saint Peter's just around 3pm, I got in the driver's seat, Charlie and I dropped Jim off at the PATH station so he could get some work done in his office.

Then it was mom 'n' boy time, with another walk in a drizzle, computer time, snack time. Go over the schedule, calendar, and social story time. Ride time, at the end of which Charlie started getting really insistent (with his body and face tensing up) about driving in certain directions and asking for "takeout." We got home and Charlie ran eagerly into the house, only to start moving stuff around with extra determination and insistence, and in alignment with the floorboards, and then I could hear the first intimations of keening and moaning.

Anxiety evinced as OCD behavior has been a surefire sign for something difficult ensuing. Charlie asked for "type"–for the computer–and I brought it over and then gently moved it to the floor as the volume of Charlie's voice increased, as did the pitch. I picked up the bass and strummed it a little and then, realizing the futility of that, said "socks, socks." There was a volley of no's and then, heaving deep breaths, Charlie put on his socks, shoes, blue fleece, blue parka, and gloves.

I only put on the raincoat I'd bought years ago. It's from an outdoor/mountaineering sort of clothing and gear company and while our suburban adventures are far from "Into the Wild" sort of stuff, it's good to know one can go on walks in the rain and stay more or less dry (especially when one does a couple of these walks on a rainy day—Charlie would request one more after 9.30pm). Charlie ran ahead, only slowing down to run onto peoples' lawns to keep his distance from two whitish dogs (on leashes).

And I thought about how, when he was about 6, everyone noted that he'd say "burgers 'n' fries" or "sushi" or "Gong Gong Po Po" in the midst of a tantrum. We posited that Charlie, being upset, was naming things and people he liked, in an effort to make himself better. Recalling his requests for "takeout" and then the computer" earlier in the day, I noted that these had occurred when Charlie was in the midst of being really upset. Could it be that he's moved up the time in which he verbally expresses his anxiety–that is, while he used to name comforting things and people when he was already upset, in order to calm himself down, Charlie has started to name things he likes before he's actually, completely, in neurological storm mode? As if to tell and warn us, here it comes? And Jim and I, being parents eager to help one distressed boy, have tended to (understandably) take what Charlie says at face value, and try to get him what he's talking about—only he's not really wanting it, just using the words to express what he's feeling?

Charlie re-entered our house calm and easy and helped himself to a kitchen sink sort of dinner (tater tots, leftover lo mein, half a small watermelon, some crackers he pulled out of the cupboard with a smile). 

Onto Day 2 of Spring Break.

One thing I'm planning to do is to show Charlie this video.

Jim on MetroFocus, Channel 13, PBS
 

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Comments
3 Responses to “Spring Break, Day 1: The Great Communicator”
  1. Jen says:

    Good luck on day 2!
    And thanks for posting Jim’s video- it’s a fascinating subject, and it’s great to see him at work.

  2. Estee Klar says:

    Adam uses W when he’s distressed. He hadn’t been using it for a while and now it has re-surfaced again.
    Love the video!

  3. Louise says:

    It makes sens that Charlie would be naming things that he knows calm him or make him happy when he feels his distress reaching troubling levels. He’s learned what his levels of tolerable distress are.
    At the same time, it means that he doesn’t want the takeout, or Gong Gong and Po Po in and of themselves.
    It explains why he ignores the food once you get it for him! Nouns – objects – represent emotions to him.
    Do his teachers think that this might be a way to teach him abstract nouns? “Trouble”, “upset,” “woe”? (“Hurt” is probably best left for any physical injury.)
    You and Jim are so lucky to have careers that permit you BOTH such flexible schedules. What would happen if one of you had to be in an office from 8 to 5 every day? *shudder*

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