“Things are changing with him lately, don’t you think?” GC asked me as we sat at the dinner table.
The Roc had just bounded up the stairs to do his business. Also new, and TMI, he will go, and go through all the steps – wiping, flushing, pulling his pants back up, washing his hands, turning off the bathroom light, without help from us. Something I agonized over last year, a skill I broke down into steps and tried to teach him, but never found the time or energy to stay on task. I hated fighting in the little bathroom. And he is now doing it all by himself. Sure, he still announces his intention, announces when he’s done, and we’ve got a ways to go teaching about toilet paper consumption and how it clogs the toilet, but we are not in the bathroom with him. Lovely.
But that’s not exactly what GC was referring to, while it sure is a part of the big picture of growth and change we’ve noticed recently.
It’s the little things. Those things that most parents take for granted, the ones that mean the most to the tribe of parents I belong to, those of us who do break everything down, who teach each step, and then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Who wait for spontaneous, unscripted conversation, for connection. Who keep pushing and repeating and teaching, teaching, teaching with hope in their hands.
It’s the little, but really not so little, sparks of growth that have me sucking in air and widening my eyes at GC lately.
The Roc is asking for help instead of immediately freaking out, screaming, and having a fit. Not always, I get reminders of the way it used to always go down, but he’s slowly beginning to manage his emotions better. He’s grimacing instead of flailing about, growling about being mad or frustrated instead of screaming at the top of his lungs.
He is also fluently asking questions. What? When? Why? It’s usually about the same things over and over, but I’ll take it, because I know it will advance. “Do turkeys fly?” he asked me while decorating a turkey for school. My eyes met GC’s in the kitchen. “That’s a great question Roc,” GC said as he came into the dining room, grinning at me.
The Roc is saying “thank you” and “please” multiple times a day without prompting. “Can I have more cheese on my pasta please?” We still exclaim over this new unprompted politeness.
He is engaged with us everyday in a way he wasn’t before. He is present, he makes eye contact for longer and longer periods, he’s soaking everything up, and we know it, he shows us. He is asking about emotions, “Are you mad?” he asked me the other day, searching my face. He hears the changes in my voice, in GC’s voice, and he asks us if we are mad. He really doesn’t want us to be mad at him. He has always been paying close attention to our emotions, our voices, our facial expressions, and now he is putting it all together.
He tells me things about his day. He usually won’t answer questions about school, but mulitple times a week he offers up things that happened during the day. Usually it’s things that happen in the resource room, he earned time on the swing, they went to the courtyard to play for a break, he got to play a game during friendship group. Or, “Hector got mad in Ms. G’s room today,” he blurted out last week after school. “He screamed and said he wasn’t going to do his math work. Then he threw the phone. We had to go to Ms. stepping stones room. Ms. G wasn’t happy.” This sparked a short conversation about appropriate school behavior and what to do when you are frustrated.
Also, the Roc is happy to go to school. Last year we fought a lot in the morning as the bus rounded the curve and came into sight. He would scream, throw his backpack, say he wasn’t going. Not this year. He says he likes his teachers, he smiles as he climbs into the van, he smiles when he comes home. Everyone I’ve come in contact with when I volunteer during the week says how much they enjoy the Roc. The paras rotate every few weeks and I met the woman who is working with him and another little boy in his room for the next couple weeks. “I just love him, he’s wonderful,” she said to me on Friday. I touched her arm and said, “I love him too, and thank you for saying that,” I told her.
We still battle over homework, so I’ve been trying to slip little bits of it into the routines in our day. While I’m making breakfast he copies the spelling words I’ve written down, we do sight word flashcards before the bus comes, and he gets a small treat for doing a little bit of the actual homework after his after school snack. I was thrilled to pull out his spelling test last week and see he got 9 out of 10 right.
It’s all these little, but not really so little, things that add up to big progress for the Roc.
He works hard every day, and we know it.
He’s growing up.