Sometimes I feel like I’ve got this whole Aspie thing under control. I know what will knock Monkey for a loop. I prepare him ahead of time for trouble spots, or sense when things are about to get ugly and take him aside.
Sometimes I don’t realize or see what what will set him off, and I feel alternately inept and callous as I try to both get him in line and soothe him. Like, yes, honey, no one likes to wait an hour for the doctor, but that doesn’t actually mean it’s okay to answer his, “And how are you?” greeting with “I’m PRACTICALLY DEAD because we’ve been waiting here FOREVER and I’m BORED.” (Bonus: I apologized to the doctor, which only irritated Monkey further. “Why are YOU sorry? You’re not the one who made us wait!”)
Sometimes I forget things. And sometimes I have to make decisions on the fly before I have time to think about them.
Monkey lost his last tooth… I don’t even know. Years ago. Kids lose and grow teeth for years and then it kind of stops for a while, or at least that’s how it’s been for both of my kids. And this week, suddenly, Monkey had two loose teeth again. That was delightful because it meant his hands were constantly crammed in his mouth. (Sensory issues + loose teeth = BIG FUN!) I guess he’s always done this, but he was maybe eight or nine the last time he had a loose tooth, and now he’s eleven and a half and it just seems… inappropriate.
So: loose teeth. Hands in mouth. Admonitions to take his hands out of his mouth. Complaints during dinner. Hands in mouth. And then—Monkey ran into my office last night with a tooth in hand, triumphant.
“Nice work, buddy!” I said. “You must feel relieved to have it out!”
“Yep! I’m gonna put it under my pillow for the tooth fairy!”
I looked at him. He looked at me. Trying very hard to keep my voice neutral, I said, “Don’t you think… maybe… you’re a little old for the tooth fairy?”
“Why?” He looked genuinely puzzle. “I don’t think the tooth fairy cares how old I am, Mom. That’s silly. Can I have a Ziploc for my tooth?”
I gave him the Ziploc. I started to say something else, but I stopped. The tooth fairy has always been true for him. He’s very rigid. The fact that his peers figured this out years ago means nothing to him; he has no reason not to believe. I thought about this past Christmas, when he still clearly very much believed in Santa, and none of us let on.
Because for every bit of rigid “do it all over again” and “do it the RIGHT way” insanity that he inflicts, there is also this: He believes in magic, with the same fervor. Still. Did I want to take that away from him? (Also, I’m not sure I’m fully recovered from his sister’s disillusionment lo these many years ago.)
After the kids went to bed, Otto and I watched some TV until it was time to turn in. “I have to go up and put some money under Monkey’s pillow,” I said.
Otto quirked an eyebrow at me. I told him what had happened earlier. I told him I didn’t figure it would hurt any to slip him a dollar. And then Otto said (gently): “You’re really going to send him to a public middle school still believing in the tooth fairy? It might be time… you know… to let that one go.”
I wavered. I decided to skip tooth fairy duties and see what happened this morning.
And this morning, I tensed up as I heard Monkey shuffling down the stairs. He walked into my office looking disappointed.
“I guess the tooth fairy thinks I’m too old,” he said.
“Come here, sweetie,” I opened my arms and he curled up in my lap. He’s still so small; I know a growth spurt is coming, for him, and probably soon. But right now he’s still the size of a much younger child, which means lap cuddling is still possible. I took a deep breath. “Monkey, do you REALLY believe in the tooth fairy?”
He pondered this a moment. “Well who else would take my teeth and put money under my pillow? That just wouldn’t make any sense.”
I squelched a giggle. “Baby, I think you know—deep down—that the tooth fairy isn’t real.” I waited for the argument. The outrage. The THIS DOES NOT COMPUTE, MAKE IT DIFFERENT reaction.
He leaned back against my shoulder. “Maybe really far down,” he admitted. “Just a little. But… how come I never caught you? And how did you swap the tooth and money in sealed envelopes and stuff?”
I smiled at him. “I said the tooth fairy isn’t real, I didn’t say there’s no magic.” He smiled back, and I squeezed him tight.
Sometimes I’m poised for a battle, and am surprised by grace.