As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s blog entry, “Improvements in Socialization,” Alex has been making some progress lately in being more social. In the past week, he has been much more interactive with me than he has been in months. For some reason, he would flee anytime he saw me as if being in the same room with me were a terrible fate. Moreover, I had the feeling that if I dropped off the face of the earth, he wouldn’t even notice, let alone care. To emphasize his disaffection for me, about all he would say to me was, “Mommy is leaving,” which was his way of telling me to hit the road quickly. Last week his choosing to sit beside me on the couch marked the beginning of my reintegration into Alex’s world. However, I knew that I would have to let him make the moves about including me back into his life, or risk being banished again.
This recent change in our relationship reminds me of a chapter from one of my favorite books, The Little Prince, in which the character of the fox asks the Little Prince to “tame” him. Confused by what the fox is requesting, the Little Prince wants to know the meaning of “tame.” The fox explains, “It means to establish ties.” The fox further clarifies this concept, stating, “But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.” He then lays out a plan in which the Little Prince will keep his distance from the fox but will gradually move closer every day. Following the fox’s guidelines, the Little Prince, indeed, tames him, and the fox later tells him, “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” In dealing with Alex’s behavioral changes over the past several months, we have felt as though we were taming him, making him comfortable, in spite of his anxiety, by approaching him gradually and on his terms. We have respected his need for space, but we never wanted him to get too far from us physically or emotionally, knowing that he needed us, and we were responsible for him.
The past few days, Alex has begun asking questions about me. When I’ve been out running errands, he has asked Ed, “Where’s Mommy?” and “When will Mommy be home?’ Apparently he now notices my absence and awaits my return. When I’m home, he will now address me directly and ask me questions nicely. Of course, most of his questions revolve around wanting me to do something for him, primarily to help him entertain himself by finding, making, and/or printing lists for him. Over the weekend, he asked me to help him find lists of long words (specifically those with 16 and 20 letters), 100 common diseases, and 100 top country singers. Since he is a whiz with Google, he doesn’t really need me to help him find information on the Internet, but he does need for me to print them since we limit his access to the computer printer. If Alex printed everything he found interesting online, he’d go through countless printer ink cartridges and reams of paper. Therefore, he must ask us first before he’s allowed to print anything. In addition to searching for lists online, he’s also asked me to make up lists of random numbers with digit amounts that he specifies. For example, he’s had me type lists of random numbers that have 15 digits, 74 digits, and 103 digits. Fortunately, I can type those numbers pretty fast, and he’s delighted with the printed versions I’ve made for him. I suspect that this list making is his way of reaching out to me through the form of conversation he knows best: making lists of words and numbers. At times he seems to prolong the activity by asking for my ideas but repeatedly rejecting them, as though he know he’s controlling the interaction by doing this. Nonetheless, I’m pleased that he and I are on speaking terms again and that he seeks my company willingly. While I like to think that I’ve tamed Alex, perhaps the reality is that he has tamed me. As we re-establish our ties, I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with my son and for the improvements we’ve seen lately.
“For I, too, was once my father’s son, tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.” Proverbs 4:3