I made Wil’s breakfast and busied myself in the kitchen awaiting Wil’s typical wide-armed entry into the living room with a hearty, “Look at me, Mom!” (He takes great pride in his clothing selection each day.)
“Oooo, fancy!” I’ll reply. This morning, however, just enough time had passed to suspect something was wrong.
“Do you need help, Wil?” I called out from the kitchen. I received no response.
I walked into Wil’s bedroom. He sat on the floor, shoulders slumped, still in his pajamas. The underwear drawer hung open in front of him.
“Wil, you have underwear in your drawer.” I picked up a pair.
Wil put his hand up. “No mom.”
“What’s wrong. Do you want a different color?”
“My new underwear, mom.”
“Oh, I have some in the dryer. I’ll be right back with them.” (I recently bought Wil new bamboo-based underwear for his skin sensitivity.)
I returned to Wil’s bedroom and playfully tossed him 2 pair of underwear in different colors (I was trying to keep the mood light. I didn’t know if this was simply about underwear or if it was a deeper problem.)
“Two pair!” He exclaimed as he caught the underwear. I relaxed. It was just about underwear.
“Hey Wil, thanks for telling me what was wrong. That way I could help you. See how easy that was? Next time, just come and tell me what you need. If you tell people what is wrong, then they can help you. Otherwise we just don’t know, and then we don’t know how to help.”
A short 2 years ago there is absolutely no way I could have had this conversation with Wil. He would have stayed on the floor without a word. His shoulders would have slumped further, and any more words from me, no matter how reasonable or helpful, would not be reasonable or helpful to him. More words would drive him deeper into his frustrated state.
A short 2 years ago I would have sat next to him, and maybe even silently cried because we had so many such mornings. Like many teenagers, hormones and body changes put him in challenging moods, and with a communication barrier I had to guess at the reasons for his upset.
Different underwear than what was in his drawer would have been the last on my checklist of guesses. Because school was challenging for him at that time, my mind would have leapt to problems at school. I would have become increasingly upset and sad for him. I then would have texted his paraprofressional (who is wonderful!) and probed her for any clues as to what may have been setting him off. We both would have poured over recent events trying to discern what was wrong so we could unravel it for him.
And yet, for all our surmising, the solution was a different pair of underwear.
And so, this very morning, I was the happiest mom on earth. I had a conversation with Wil, and Wil responded back to me. His back step of getting stuck with lack of communication was also a forward step in expansive conversational communication.
Over and again, Wil reminds me that what seems simple on the surface often is not; and what seems complicated on the surface often is not. And that no moment — be it simple or complicated — is to be taken for granted.