#17: Rescue Party
We moved here to north Texas about 18 months ago, a matter of weeks before our daughter was born. Those first few months were really hard – new place, no friends, feeling 10 months pregnant in the blazing summer heat Texas is known for.
E was my rescue party during that time. He wanted to be right next to me all the time, almost like he could feel how much I needed him.
He often seems like he’s living in his own world and is not paying attention to what’s going on around him, but the reality is quite different. He’s taking it all in, absorbing everything he hears, smells, sees and touches – he just doesn’t react to everything outwardly like most kids do.
Honestly, I envy that. His ability to focus on one thing – to absorb it fully without outward reaction, to process it at his own pace without being distracted by the pace of the world around him – is a trait I wish I had. In fact, it’s one I wish our entire culture had. It’s a trait rooted in humility, disregarding any concern for one’s own emotional reaction, or for how others may perceive you.
The world around us is constantly abuzz with activity, distraction, and technological connectivity. The sum of those pieces is a culture that is increasingly disconnected – one that de-emphasizes personal interaction and the art of truly listening.
But not my son. I’m learning that he may not look at me when I’m talking to him and may not react when I call his name, but he is listening. It’s just that his brain is working on something else at that moment, and he’s wired to focus on whatever that is until it is “finished” before moving on to the next thing. That’s a good thing.
How do I encourage that focus yet help him learn how to respond when called? How to react promptly when people talk to him? Is that even possible?
He is in the living room watching a favorite children’s show right now. It’s mid-afternoon on a Saturday and he’s still in his pajamas, the “soft ones” with short sleeves and the tag cut out. Tags make him cry. He reacts to them in pain, like someone is sticking needles in his skin.
“E, in five minutes we are going to turn off the TV and have a snack,” I say, calling into the living room. No response. He’s absorbed in his show but I know he heard me.
Three minutes later I call into the living room again: “E, two minutes to go and then it’s snack time!” The occupational therapist is teaching me how to help him transition more smoothly from one activity to the next, and multiple advance notifications of impending change is one of the tactics.
Suddenly the noise from the TV ceases. I turn to look into the living room, thinking perhaps E turned the TV off. But he’s still on the couch, staring at the blank blue screen with an error message displayed.
“Uh oh, buddy,” I say. “Looks like something’s wrong with the TV. How about you come in here and eat your snack and Mommy will try to fix it?”
But he has a different plan. He’s already digging into his toy chest and pulling out his tool belt, hard hat, and tools.
“I fix it,” he says, working to strap on his tool belt.
I watch with a big smile on my face, marveling over the fact that he didn’t get upset when his cartoon was interrupted abruptly. Instead, he recognized there was a problem and immediately set about to fix it. Progress.
As he tinkers with the TV and looks behind it to see if there’s a “bolt missing”, I quietly maneuver to the cable box and press the “reset” button. The TV begins to cycle through the reset process and the screen flashes new words.
“Look, E! You’re doing it! The TV is starting to work again!”
He looks at the screen and sees the new words, and a look of satisfaction crosses his face. He puts his tools back in his tool belt matter-of-factly, then turns toward me and says, “All done!”
I throw my arms around him for a quick hug as he turns his head away from me, trying to do his standard “backwards” hug. “I am SO proud of you, buddy! You did a GREAT job! Daddy will be so excited when he hears what a great job you did!”
The sweetest smile emerges on his face as his cartoon pops back on the screen. He’s not looking at me, but he is feeling my affirmation, my love, and his own joy in a job well done. This moment is one of many that will be the building blocks of his future success. I just know it.
E was my rescue party, my loyal, loving little buddy when I had no friends and felt lost in a new place.
Now, for this season where he is the one in a new “place”, I am his rescue party. I’ll need to employ every tool in my tool belt to give him the help that he needs, and to love, encourage and cheer him on every step of the way.
But along the way, I have a feeling he will keep rescuing me right back.