It’s 5:35 in the morning and my son wakes me up in his favorite way. He begins throwing things over the gate of his room into the hallway, watching to see if I move as they come crashing to the floor with each hit.
He can just get a glimpse of my feet across the hall if he leans out far enough and if the first item doesn’t make a big enough splash, the follow-ups will. It’s either big plastic music boxes, giant wooden bead games, or, once the heavy things start running low, occasional blankets. Either way, the parade of smashing always ends with me sitting up, rubbing my eyes, and asking the usual morning question:
Lucas. Stop. Jeez. What are you doing?
As I crawl out of bed, he begins jumping and clapping with all the enthusiasm of a strung out independent movie producer after a three night rave. He’s overjoyed and overflowing with emotion. There are hugs and screams galore as my little man hoppingly guides me towards the hanging television on his wall.
Don’t mistake non-verbal for silent. Despite the implication that his autism makes him quiet, it can usually be quite the opposite. As I try to sneak in a few more minutes of disjointed sleep, he’s screeching with delight over the rerunning antics of the Wiggles or Color Crew. My dreams always involve chirping birds and crashing cars, brought to you by my favorite indie movie mogul.
Eventually, I fight the inevitable and roll off my mattress for the final time. As I enter his room, he’s even happier than before. Raging with emotion, he welcomes me with open arms and I ask another daily inquiry.
How do you have so much energy, kid? Wow.
When we went through the routine yesterday, I realized that maybe this would be a good time to do his Flipgrid video assignment for class. Prior to the weekly Google Meet with his teacher, Lucas needed to complete, in the least, his Monday task. It’s a simple one for him. I even used those exact words.
We just have to do a Flipgrid video, OK? Then we can go eat breakfast. Really simple, buddy. She just wants you to clap your hands, reach up high…
As soon as I start to act it out and take that “we have work to do” tone, that’s when the baby elephant comes out to play. It’s a sustained whine that raises in volume as he does it. From a seated position, his back arches and his body contort in a way that says, “Nah.”
Oh, but I insist. My stance stiffens. I am firm in my words.
Lucas. We have to. Clap your hands. Reach up high. Stomp your feet. That’s it. Ten seconds. Ready?
And I start recording.
Clap your hands.
He claps with all the strength of two feathers floating into each other on a cool spring day, but it fills the requirement.
Reach up high.
He’s done it a hundred times…that morning. It’s how he greeted me each time I took a step towards his doorway. This is the easiest of them all. So, he reaches up…
…and halfway through, before his hands make it past his head, he locks eyes with me. Then he lets out a giant exaggerated yawn and falls to the floor.
Yup. My son, who has been jacked up on adrenaline and Raffi since the rooster crowed, is now too exhausted to reach his hands past his head. He’s gone from punk rock slam dancer to the episode of Golden Girls where Dorothy was so fatigued that she couldn’t reach up to put shampoo on her head and the doctors thought she was faking.
The only difference between him and Bea Arthur though is that he’s totally faking.
Here he is. The boy most professionals warned might never understand anything, has perfected the art of acting his way out of work he doesn’t want to do. It’s not wishful thinking either. It’s fact. I know he’s faking because the moment I stop recording, Mr. Electricity springs back to life and begins shoving waffles in his mouth as soon as he sees them pop out of the toaster.
When it’s Flipgrid video time, though, he’s a fainting damsel, blotting her forehead with a handkerchief as he tumbles to the floor. Oh my stars.
This has been his M.O. for a while though. Whether it’s acting like his legs don’t work in order to trick a bus matron into literally pushing him up and down the steps or collapsing to floor halfway across the street because he just isn’t feeling the whole “walking” thing anymore, Lucas has found his way out of certain situations.
Getting a case of the sleepies isn’t his only trick. He will often become overly a lovey-dovey at the sight of work he doesn’t want to do. Flash cards? Oh, daddy, how can I do those when I all I want to do is hug you and giggle. Don’t you want to hug your boy, poppa. Poppa, can you hear me…?
He’s my guy, so of course, I give in…momentarily. But, then we return to our work. He scowls like an unmasked carnival villain in Scooby Doo and reluctantly does his work. His teacher has gotten more than a few baby elephant Flipgrids, but she gets them. And Lucas suddenly has all the energy in the world.
They said he would never understand, but he’s showing me every day that he understands much more than we ever dreamed possible. Ironically, it’s his attempts to get out of showing me what he can do that have shown me the most.