Lately, Sean has been removing the knobs off of the kitchen cabinets, dresser drawers and door handles. I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to make us go mad, but nonetheless, we slowly are. He is also locking doors; the doors to our bedrooms, to the bathroom, the sliders to the kitchen and the deck, the front door and garage door. We find ourselves constantly stalled -- grabbing a knob that catches on the lock and keeps us from moving forward.
My older son has put pennies underneath the trim of all the doors.
“Look, Mom, if you get locked out there’s a penny right under the door.” he says removing the penny and sliding it into the lock to unlock it.
He grins, impressed with his solution. He is such a flexible boy -- laid back and forgiving. He tries to work around it, while my husband and I bubble over with frustration.
“Sean! Why is my door locked?” I yell, my arms filled with laundry that needs to be put away.
He hustles up the stairs, grabs my thigh and says breathlessly, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I love you.”
“Sean, do NOT lock my door anymore. Understand?”
He nods his head but his focus is waning and I know that it is a struggle for him to manage these compulsions. I know, at that moment, he means it. He will not do it. But minutes later, he has given into the compulsion, his promise lifting like fog and my door is once again locked.
When my husband parks his car in the garage and cannot enter the house, he bangs his fist and shouts, “OPEN UP!” He has had a long day, the weather is unbearably hot and his entrance to our home has been hindered.
I open it up and he looks frustrated. “Why are all the doors locked?”
I look back helplessly, “Don’t get upset with me, I didn’t do it.”
He lowers his head, wipes his brow with his hand and says quietly, “I know. It’s just so annoying.“
We both know this. We are always having to manage our stress -- like ice building up on street curbs, we have to remember to spread the rock salt, lower the temperature, melt away the hazards. We have to work as a team. There are the moments, “You’re blaming me!” or “I can’t be responsible for him 24/7.” But at the end of the day, we are on the same side -- we just want our boy to move forward -- to unlock his potential.
This will fade. He will move onto something else. Last month it was switching the lights off and on and off -- our house looking like a European disco at nighttime. Before that he refused to use his fingers to carry things, he pinched his toys between his wrists. And before that he used to lick his shoulder every couple of minutes.
When I told him not to do this, his eyes grew wide and he said, “I don’t have to do it?”
It took everything in me not to cry in front of him. Poor little guy. When he said that it was like passing me a decoder ring or showing me on a map the strange place where his mind roams.
I have to remember this. It isn’t deliberate. He is just a boy with small shoulders and a heavy sack strapped to his lean back. He does his best to carry it but sometimes he needs a break. He needs somebody to lift the burden, to put it on her stronger, larger shoulders and to occasionally lighten his load on this journey.
3 months ago