Martin’s gaining independence delights me for my own sake as much as his. When he could finally be trusted not to leave the house alone or endanger himself climbing the outside of the staircase railing, I could finally shower even when he and I were home alone. When he learned to swim, I could let him play on the swingset without constant fear of the pool 10 yards away. And when Martin finally started getting himself into our SUV—climbing into his booster chair, putting his drink into the cup holder, buckling his seatbelt—that meant no more straining my back to lift him aboard, no more standing in rain or snow waiting for him to arrange himself so I could push his seatbelt across, no more bypassing coffee shops that didn’t have a drive-thru because getting him in and out was such a PITA. Now he even precedes me into the garage, so that when I finally come out, coffee in hand, he’s already settled.
Last month Martin and I were twenty minutes into a car trip when, stopped at a red light, I turned around to speak to him and realized his seatbelt wasn’t buckled. “Martin!” I said. “What’s going on with your seatbelt? Why aren’t you buckled?”
“I forgot!” Martin sounded alarmed as he seized the seatbelt and buckled himself. “Oh, I forgot to put in on.”
“Be careful, buddy. We’re about to get on the highway. That would have really dangerous.”
I’m pretty sure that was a one-time occurrence. Still, since then, I’ve taken to confirming before we leave home, or asking once we’re underway, whether he’s wearing his seatbelt. I rarely remember to confirm before we leave home, which means I’m doing a lot of asking once we’re underway. “Martin, are you buckled?” “Yes.” “Martin, are you buckled?” “Yes.”
Monday I got a different answer. “Martin, are you buckled?” “Yaaaaaa-esssss!”
Exasperation! Martin, the king of repetition and perseveration, was exasperated with my question. As a bonus, his exasperated, “Yaaaaaa-esssss!” had a determinately snippy tone, almost like a pre-teen might utter.
That’s not the place I’ve heard exasperation. We’re on an airplane, and Martin just asked me whether he could order an orange juice. I said no, because he had a juice box earlier today at BareBurger. When Martin was younger, his response to that disappointment would have been a meltdown. His more common response, these days, is a burst of nonsense: “I’m never going to have juice again, ever! Throw all of the juice away! Mommy, we’re going to give the juice to another family!” His response just now was one that’s emerged within the last week or so: “Awwwww!”, that whining protest that children use when they feel they’ve been unjustly denied a privilege. I also got an “Awwwww!” when he wasn’t allowed to watch television at breakfast and when he couldn’t watch Wheel of Fortune because I had the Rangers game on.
I’m not sure I’m ready for all this neurotypicality.