Pull

In the post “What Comes Last,” I noted Martin’s continued difficulties with socializing, especially in group situations, when he just doesn’t seem able to find an entrance.

We were at yet another bouncy-house birthday party last month. Adrian and I were alternating between snapping iPhone pictures and chatting with parents. The kids were running wild. Some were interacting, such as throwing sport balls at each other, on the various apparatuses. Others were jumping and sliding alone. Martin, of course, fell into the latter category.

—Until he bounded up to me, exclaimed, “Mommy, come play with me!”, grabbed my hand, and pulled me toward one of the inflatables.

I went. It was the first time Martin had tried to pull me toward anything, ever.

To be clear: It was only me whom Martin tried to pull into a game, not another kid. Moreover, he hasn’t done so again since.

But it happened. As they say: It’s in there. Martin has the desire, and slowly the skill, to bring others to him. I that sometime in the next six months he will try the hand-pull move again, first with me and then, I hope, with other kids.

A blurry action shot: Adrian and Martin clowning at the birthday party. It's blurry because I was standing in the same bouncy house.

A blurry action shot: Adrian and Martin clowning at the birthday party. It’s blurry because I was standing in the same bouncy house.

Special Guest Author: My Law-School Roommate on Jammin’ With Martin

Last weekend my law-school roommate, who lives in New Jersey, brought her daughter, Mieko, over to play with Martin. Mieko is five months older than Martin, and the most wonderfully bossy little girl, and one day she’s going to marry Martin. I’m quite confident of this; I’ve been planning the wedding since Martin was born.

(“‘The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as hers. While in their cradles, we planned the union . . . .'” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.)

Those far-off nuptials, however, are not the topic du jour. Instead, the day after I dropped my erstwhile roommate and her daughter off at the New Jersey ferry, I received a message through Facebook, which I reprint here, unedited other than the pseudonyms:

It was great seeing you, Adrian, and Martin yesterday.

I wanted to tell you something in the car and didn’t get a chance to. I remember you told me a while ago that Martin could not participate in a kiddie gym class because he was not able to follow what the other kids were doing and would go off and do his own thing. Well, yesterday, I noticed that that was not an issue for Martin anymore. Remember when we were having our jam session? I was on acoustic guitar, Mieko was on electric guitar, you were on tambourine, and Martin was on harmonica. He was definitely aware that we were all playing music together. Not only was he aware that we were having a jam session, but he also noticed a certain someone (Adrian) who was off doing his own thing and was not participating in the group activity! He then proceeded to pull over Adrian to the piano so that everyone was participating together!

What was impressive was that we weren’t all doing the same activity, like everyone hopping on one foot or everyone clapping hands. All of us were each doing something different with different instruments, and yet Martin recognized it as a coordinated activity where each person, doing something different, was together working toward the same goal of creating music. So playing the piano was acceptable to him, but looking at the computer screen was not. I am no expert on child development, but doesn’t that require an awareness of others at a level that three-year-olds don’t always have?

Anyway, the jam session was very fun and very cool!

I take issue with only one part of this message: With twin seven-year-old sons at home, plus Mieko, my roommate by now is an expert on child development. And that makes what she wrote all the better.

A boy and his cat. Martin and George, tuckered out from a hard day of playing with friends.

Airport Fun, Part One: The Bathroom Miracle

We traveled yesterday, Martin and I, to visit his excellent Track Two doctor. I intend to post the doctor’s comments (at least, my interpretation thereof) once I’ve had a chance to ponder all she said. For now, I want to discuss the trip, and more specifically, positive and negative experiences we had underway. It will be another two-part post, starting tonight with the positive.

Going to visit Martin’s Track Two doctor means a schedule something like this: We rise early and eat breakfast and take morning supplements at home. Adrian drives me and Martin to the airport, where the two of us clear security and fly a couple hours. Upon landing we take a quick bus ride to a car-rental office. Then, in what I consider the most challenging part of the day, I make Martin wait inside the rental car—there’s just no way I could keep him safe in a rental-car lot with my attention diverted—while I install the toddler seat. Whatever the season, it invariably seems to be either sleeting, pouring rain, or freezing while I spend 20 minutes with my backside hanging out the passenger door, installing that damn toddler seat.

(I am yet to find a car-rental company that will install a toddler seat for me. If you know one, please send the information to findingmykid@yahoo.com.)

Next I drive us 40 minutes to the doctor’s office for a two-hour (give or take) appointment. After that we head back to the airport, surrender the rental car, ride the bus, clear security, wait around, and fly back to New York, where Adrian meets us at the airport, usually between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. During this whole process I feed Martin food that I’ve cooked at home. For myself, I drink a lot of coffee and pick up what I can, here or there.

It’s an exhausting day. A lot of moving from place to place. A lot of walking hand-in-hand.

And, of course, a lot of visiting strange potties.

Yesterday we hit four airport bathrooms. Don’t worry: For a change, I will not address any, ahem, bodily functions in this post. The topic du jour is what happened outside the stalls.

Bathroom No. 1. No paper towels! The bathroom had only hot-air hand dryers. Martin loves paper towels and fears hot-air dryers. (Oddly, he likes hair dryers. When I dry my hair, he waits for me to whoosh his bangs back with the hot air, scampers away, then returns repeatedly for another whoosh.) In the past, a paper-towel dearth might have caused a meltdown. Yesterday when we finished washing our hands, I said to Martin, “Oh! No paper towels. But you don’t have to use the electric dryer. Let’s go see if we can find paper towels anywhere else.” He accepted that, and we exited the bathroom peacefully. I planned, if Martin persisted in seeking paper towels, to grab some Starbucks or Auntie Anne’s napkins. (The paper-towel supply in my backpack was too precious to surrender, meant instead for in-fight snacks, spilled drinks, runny noses, training-pants accidents, and whatever else the day had waiting.) The napkins proved unnecessary. We strolled wet-handed to the gate, and Martin let go of his paper-towel dreams.

Bathroom No. 2. We were in a hurry. While he was throwing away his paper towel, Martin glanced up and saw that I was already leaving. In such a situation, Martin’s typical reaction has been to dawdle, maybe turn on a faucet or play with a stall door, and generally ignore me until I return to retrieve him and drag him out by the hand. Not yesterday. When he saw me leaving, Martin dumped his paper towel, ran across the bathroom, and took my hand. Paying attention to my cues? Picking up his pace to meet mine? Glory be, whose child was this?

Bathroom No. 3. I was so inspired by the Bathroom No. 2 breakthrough that I designed a little experiment to see whether I could replicate the success. After hand washing, I directed Martin to a wastebasket at the far end of the bathroom to discard his paper towel. While he was thus engaged, I moved to the exit area—it was one of those set-ups with no door, where you instead exit by maneuvering through a U-shaped passageway—and called, “C’mon, Martin, let’s get out of here.” Then I ducked behind the first part of the U-shape. As an unanticipated bonus, a full-length mirror on the bathroom’s near wall enabled me to watch Martin’s reaction. He looked up, realized that I had left, appeared briefly startled, and again came running. It’s not that long since I had to worry about Martin wandering away without so much as checking my location before he took off. To have him hustling and mildly panicked when he knows I’ve left a bathroom—well, that’s a plain miracle.

Bathroom No. 4. We were in a hurry again. The plane was actually boarding. I threw away the paper towel for Martin, grabbed him, and ran. So nothing to report, except maybe, Hey, did I tell you about Bathroom No. 3?

Coming attraction: The security-line tantrum.