There is a common thing about parenthood that is never covered ahead of time. It’s walking into a room of the unexpected. You turn a corner, lift your head, and freeze in shock at the sight before you.
This moment of insanity can be many different things. Perhaps it’s a room overflowing with Corn Pop cereal balls thanks to a child who helped himself to a second breakfast. Maybe it’s an exploded diaper by a toddler who made it snow like a pee-soaked Elsa. In some cases, it could be their beautiful drawings…on the living room wall. Either way, there is plenty to knock you back a bit.
So, when I’m in my office and notice things have been quiet for a while, I get up and make the long journey twenty feet away to check on my son, Lucas, ready for whatever the universe has in store. He’s non-verbal with Autism so there is little conversation between rooms. Most of our interactions take place face to face, so I head over to do just that.
Lately, these walks end with a conversation that goes far beyond face to face. It’s times like this when I’m forced to bare witness to the barest of witnesses. That’s because – yep – he’s naked.
No matter how many times it happens, it takes me a few seconds to adjust my brain. It’s like Woodstock in my den with Sesame Street playing on the Chromecast as his personal Jimi Hendrix. All he needs is a little beard and fingerprinted peace sign on his stomach to complete the look.
I have to admit, it drives me crazier than these words might imply. It sounds funny and, yeah, it is. But it’s also the most worrisome thing he does. My mind goes beyond this moment in time to other moments where it could happen. It’s may just be the two of us downstairs and no one is here to see his bits and pieces flopping about. But this is one moment in time. There will be many more going forward with much larger crowds, social distance notwithstanding.
What about a party for his sister and her friends? I think about that. I craft scenarios in my head of twelve-year-old girls all screaming and Olivia coming from her room shouting, “Lucas is naked!” The mental image alone makes me cringe
I think of the school bus, full of kids and a matron unable to see as he’s wedged into his seat wiggling out of his clothing. By the time anyone notices, he has his naked body sitting on the filthy vinyl seats, presumably catching the flesh-eating virus.
I think of everywhere. I think of the fact that, although I routinely forget, he’s a nine-year-old boy now. Taking the business out of his trousers and waving it about isn’t cute anymore. In fact, it was never really cute. Maybe to those who collect Precious Moments figurines, but to most of the world, naked kids aren’t a welcome sight.
After my head knocks itself straight again, I react as any father would.
Lucas! No! Why are you naked! No!
To this, my little streaker raises one finger in the air and waves it back and forth. It’s our movement for “no, no, no.” I taught him that. Very proud. He does that and then goes back to watching TV with his privates on the floor.
No, Lucas. Get up. Let’s go!
The issue with teaching lessons to a kid like Lucas is that, for lack of a better term, he doesn’t care. This is the same boy who will dash past me to grab his iPad from the charger, knowing full well I will take it away within seconds. He only understands consequences sporadically. So all the “no, no, no” in the world only goes so far.
So, I march him into the shower.
You’re confused. I know.
Lucas likes baths. He’s not a big shower fan. So, I use this opportunity to wash him up but also to reinforce that taking his clothes off leads to an unpleasant experience. He’s not miserable in there, but he’d much rather be watching television. The fact that he’s already naked makes the process easier for me. The hope is that he will learn. But even if he doesn’t, at least he’s clean.
Sure, there are silver linings. He knows how to take his clothes off. That’s cool, I guess. There was a time when I didn’t think he would ever be able to maneuver himself in that way. So, good for him. It’s about time and place, though. Mid-afternoon in the family area of our home isn’t the time or place.
Hopefully, it’s a phase. Kids all go through it. There was a solid three month stretch when his neurotypical sister, then about seven, began gulping in an exaggerated way constantly. Sitting at the table, she would stretch her neck out like a cartoon character scared of danger and loudly swallow. She did it repeatedly. Pointing it out made it continue even more.
Then, one day, she stopped. Hopefully he does too. Kids sometimes do that.
So, if you see my boy and he’s running through the streets like a hippie on acid, just call me up. I’ll be there as soon as possible with a towel and bar of soap to straighten the whole situation out. Hopefully it won’t come to that. If it does, though, I apologize. Cover your eyes and send me good vibes.