Picture day was today. Last night Wil took a shower in preparation, and spent extra time choosing a shampoo. I heard him talking to himself as he smelled each one.
“Ewww! Too strong. Hmmm, this is old. Mmmm, smells good.”
With his sisters gone to college, Wil can safely use what they’ve left behind without swift sibling reprimands. When his sisters were home, the slightest change in position of their shampoo, conditioner or body lotion bottles was expertly detected.
Wil eventually, and excitedly, exited the shower, put on his fluffy blue robe, and walked directly to me. He bent his wet head so I could smell his freshly showered hair, then lifted his arm for me to smell his fresh skin. Wil shared no words with these actions. This routine went back to the days of him refusing to bathe, and me adding positive reinforcement when he did. This same routine also remains with him blowing his minty fresh breath in my direction after he brushes his teeth.
“Oooo, fresh!” Is my expected, and routine reply. He’s 16 years old now, and we really don’t need this routine anymore, but it makes us both laugh, so we keep it up.
He combed his hair, played it into a Mohawk, “like this Mom?” We laughed again, he put on his pajamas, and he went to bed.
I’m not sure what happened overnight, but he was a different version of himself this morning. I had to coax him out of bed, then he wouldn’t get dressed. My guess would be overwhelm. He typically wears a favorite dressy shirt on picture day, but today he picked a black cotton Luke Bryan shirt that wasn’t exactly unwrinkled. He was muttering to himself, which meant he knew he picked this shirt to pick a fight. He wanted me to tell him to pick something else. And it would be him flat out refusing to do anything.
If he had simply picked out a shirt, without the muttering, I would have asked him to go back and take another look. I would help him if he wanted. And he’d do that, and come out saying, “This one, Mom?”
But I knew this muttering mood well. And it’s one where I give him space to work through what he needs to. And that’s what I did. Almost. His hair dried funny in the back. So I waited until he was eating breakfast (aka when he was happy and distracted) and put a wet comb through it.
“Wil, I know you’ll be disappointed if your hair is sticking up.” As he wears a baseball cap every day, I asked him to wait to put it on until after pictures. Well, in the mood he was in, you can guess what he did. Hat on.
“Wil, if that’s what you want to do, fine. But think about when you get your pictures and your hair is all sticking up. Is that what you want?” I asked. He pondered this.
“Gel, Mom.” He said. Vanity does have its perks!
Wil is a wild card, with a few wild hairs! I never quite know what will offset him, so I’m always reading his cues. I think that’s why I enjoy our predictable routines — oooo, fresh!—-even if he’s outgrown them. When we make it to the car every school morning, and he starts singing, it’s like I scored all aces, and we both turn up the volume on our voices and laugh, as we always do, at our ridiculousness.
Christie Taylor has written two books about her son, Wil. She found her storytelling connected her with many other families who were raising children with Down syndrome, while at the same time, raising much needed awareness. Read her blog at Wilingness.com