With so many big changes happening in his life in the past two months---moving into Grandpa and Grandma's house and starting in a new school, first with one new teacher and instructors and classmates, and then with another new teacher and instructors and classmates---I thought it would be good and, indeed, right, to keep some things the same for Charlie. Of course, he has Daddy's blue blanket; the black car sits in the driveway and Grandpa's white car in the garage (our green car---an increasingly battered Subaru stationwagon---gets taken out mostly to haul yard clippings); he has the same schedule of ABA sessions and speech therapy; he takes the same blue backpack and blue lunchbox to school. Sleeping in a new bedroom (aka Grandpa's office), riding a yellow schoolbus rather than a red minivan, noting different landmarks on different streets: These have not fazed Charlie at all.
The main thing that has stayed the same has been Charlie's meals and so I have made him, as he requests on returning home from school, "whiterice" or "burger."
And, as related on here and here and here and here, Charlie has been asking for what I have thought to be his favorite foods---white rice, a hamburger, French fries---gotten out the plate and the silverware, looked at the food on the plate, thrown it off the table. Yesterday's throwing of fries in the car----after a lovely, lovely ocean swim----made for a somber ride home from the beach for all three of us.
Today, Charlie, if not exactly peaceful-easy, was unusually attentive and, if I may say so, eager to please. He raced off for a long morning bike ride with Jim. He pushed the cart at the grocery store and took his packet of sushi to eat on the couch. "Wahsss!" Charlie smiled and, when I looked at him quizzically, he scooped up his blanket and put it in the washing machine. "Wahsss, b'ankett!" We practised piano and he sampled blueberries and "g'een sa-lad" before his piano teacher came. Charlie really seems to understand that the notes on the page tell him what keys to press (the piano teacher has Charlie place bits of velcro'd paper with C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C on the keys before playing). "T'ank you! Puh-wease. You welcome!" said Charlie.
After the lesson, thinking that Charlie had had enough "g'een salad," I made him one of those old favorites, white rice. Charlie looked at the big circle of the bowl, looked right at me with a hint of maybe alarm, and threw it. And cried. And became, in a flash, a very different boy from the one who had waited so agreeably for his blanket to spin in the dryer.
Charlie became the boy who, over a year ago and last summer and before he started at a private autism school in December 2005, did things like throwing food and more and worse every, every day. And, as I wiped up the rice---I do think Charlie should clean it up, but he could not be calmed down enough to do so for a while---it occurred to me that maybe it has not been Charlie who needed to hold on to an old habit, the rice and the burgers and the fries. Maybe it is I who have been hanging on and clinging to certain old habits for the memories and the familiarity. Yes, Charlie has been asking for these things, only to throw them away----as if he has really had enough of them for quite a while, thank you.
And I remembered how, when he was six years old, Charlie used to request certain Barney videos, his "favorites." I would turn one on and he would watch, then hit his head on the floor. We threw away the videos and the toy Barney and Charlie, while initially beyond distraught, came to think of "Barney inna garbage" as a hilarious joke: "Garbage! Garbage! No more Barney, Barney all done," he used to say, and stage a mock tantrum screams and all, then start laughing. I, beyond weary of those videos, had to laugh at myself, especially in light of how we had once thought that Charlie could not sleep without his Barney doll on his bed. Perhaps Charlie kept asking for Barney, as he does for "white rice" (only to throw it) because he knows those are things he knows to ask for, and he has yet to figure out the words for what he would like instead.
And it is I who have had a harder time---have feared---to let go of certain comforting things that Charlie himself (a big boy getting bigger every day) is glad to say good-bye to.
Time I followed Charlie's lead.