Posted by: autismland | February 1, 2007

Let There Be Light (#591)

“Ee needa ugg!”
Said Charlie and, when I went over with a smile, he wrapped his lanky long arms around me and squeezed: A surprise—a sweet trick—from the boy who generally bestows the famous “backwards armfree hug.”

Ten minutes later, another “Ee need a hugg!” and another two-armed hug.

(Jackpot, yes.)

A bit later, I happened to tap the touchpad of my laptop; Charlie sat down before it. “Turn on, yes,” he said. Charlie’s teacher has noted that he likes to do some 6-piece online puzzles. I found one of a yellow school bus and he tapped rather randomly at the mouse, grinning.

If yesterday was a “dad ‘n’ son” afternoon, today was “mom ‘n’ me.” We walked to the train, Charlie stopping at the sidewalk’s edge and turning around to look at me; on the way back, he called out “Mom!” and tapped my arm. I had to remind him to move out of the way so other people could get to the sushi case at the grocery store (Charlie had been busy inspecting each pack). The store did not have any watermelon which he usually gets; Charlie’s response when I mentioned this was to march onto the next aisle.

It was a pleasant and peaceful easy-feeling day, from getting stuck in rush hour traffic to when Charlie told me “fold da blankett” as he settled into his bed (strewn with squishy pillow and fleece blankets and two of Jim’s old blue shirts and the green squishy ball).

But am I getting “soft” on autism—am I presenting a softened version of autism as some might say, a view that is proof positive of some kind of denial of what life with autism is “really” like: Scraping bad things (I have referred to these with a classical Greek word, kaka, which simply means “bad things” and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination) off the wall, etc..

Well. I didn’t call this blog “the autism reality show” for nothing.

After tucking Charlie in, I was upstairs preparing for a class on status, slavery, and citizenship in ancient Rome when I heard the distinctive clunk of porcelain dropped on porcelain. “Daddy bue bankett!” Charlie cried out as I beheld him taking a shower, pajamas in the laundry basket. Aside from a lot of water on the floor, everything was clean and where it should be: While just a few months ago Charlie, once in bed, would not get up no matter what signals brain and stomach sent, here he had just done that.

The nitty gritty is that Charlie was toilet-trained at the age of 3; at the age of 7, the accidents started and before you know it, we had more than walls to scrape. A year ago, we undertook “toilet retraining” and, while I still carry around extra clothes for Charlie, it seems to be working. Things could change—things can always change with Charlie—-but there is a much fuller picture to writing about “what life with autism is really like” than getting mired in the messy: There are the taboo subjects, the ache, so much love. I try (try) to get most of that into anything I write about Charlie: If there is darkness, then let there be light.

Like Charlie’s smile and “goo night” when I tucked him back in bed, and—just as when he was a newborn sleepy-full on warm milk—with arms crooked close behind his head.



  1. Love to hear about the HUGS!

    Every family has some messy stuff- autistic or not. If you don’t want to clean up kaka (literal and figurative), don’t have kids (or pets).

    Poor Henry drank a big cup of juice before bed last night and then came running into the bathroom while I was washing my face- he was trying to cover his ears (doesn’t like the sound of the water) and hold “himself” at the same time- didn’t quite succeed at either.

  2. I don’t think it’s ‘dressed up,’ it’s more that it’s swings and roundabouts – you get better good days and you get the disasterous too.
    As for potty training and re-potty training, for us it’s more a question of being so engaged in an activity that using the bathroom isn’t a priority, which isn’t the same thing as a lack of control, which I think would be of greater concern.
    Best wishes

  3. Oh… How wonderful, Kristina.. Those hugs… Your heart would have skipped a beat I reckon!!

    ” My heart, when first the blackbird sings,
    My heart drinks in the song:
    Cool pleasure fills my bosom through
    And spreads each nerve along.”

    R.L Stevenson

  4. We’re having all sorts of toilet training issues here, but figuring out ways to make things a little easier on the adults. If Sam at 9 is at the point Charlie is now with that, I will be very happy. If not, well, we’ll deal, and try to do so with grace.

    (And we did have a bit of an “incident” last night after bedtime, but both parents dealt with it as gracefully and gently as possible, and tried to make it as easy as possible on Sam, poor sleepy guy. What’s much more important right now is that he’s coming up to me saying “ma ma ma ma” and indicating with his body language that he wants me to pick him up — and I am very, very happy to oblige him on that.)

  5. Being so engaged in an activity that one “overlooks” the bathroom until too late—-ah yes! Not unknown around here. A teacher tried to teach Charlie to tell us, independently, that he had to go use the bathroom when he was 5, but (as I look back now) he just was not ready. As I think about it, a lot of things to remember–especially the anticipation that it’s going to happen, and the memory of what ensues when you don’t make it in time!

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