My son likes maps. He draws one most days before we go out, even to school. He knows the route to school by heart, and he likes to go the same way each time. And he complains about a variation. “No, this way!” he’ll yell, pointing in the direction of the usual route, and then looking down at his map, a bunch of lines that make little sense to me but all the sense in the world to him.
The five-year-old – nearly six – knows where things are. He’s got a good memory, and is observant. Very observant. We once picked him up from swimming class and promised to buy him sweeties at the shop, but we had to change course and not go to the normal haunt. He yelled, “Hey!” We calmed him by saying we’d swing by the kiosk on the way home, the one near our house. “It’s only a two or three blocks from here,” I said. He looked at me and pondered for a moment before saying, “Eight. It’s eight blocks from here.” Sure enough, it was eight blocks (including one we never really noticed before), and he said, “See!” in a way as if to say, “Geez Louise! Who are the adults here?”
This keen observation may be a skill of his, or it may be a characteristic of autism, which he has in a mild form. I don’t know. But I do know that he generally knows exactly where he is and that like any kid the best way to move around is not on your own two feet, especially after a day at school and playing soccer for an hour afterwards.
“Did you bring the car?” he asked.
“No,” I responded.
“Ohhhhh,” he said, with a huge sigh.
It is 10 blocks to our house (he told me so), and halfway home he declared mutiny. His legs, he told me, were no longer working and the only way for him to proceed was for daddy to pick him up and carry him home. I looked at him, up and down. He’s a big boy now. I can do a block, maybe two, with him in my arms. Not five. That’d break my back. So I had to do a bit of bargaining with my son, who has another characteristic of taking things literally. Promise a candy and you’ve got to follow through because you said so. A promise is a promise. A car is a car. A ball is a ball. And sugar is sugar. So my delay tactic of having him ask politely to pick him up while we walked closer and closer to home only worked for half a block. “I’ll pick you up if you say please,” I said to him. He said, “Please.” I said, say, “Pretty please.” On it went until the part, “Say pretty, pretty please with sugar on top.” He stopped and looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. “I can’t. I don’t have any sugar.”
That made me laugh.
So I picked him up and we raced home as fast as we could – as fast as my back would hold out. And we made it, full of hearty and sweet laughs.