Monday, May 25, 2015

The Stormtroopers Are Crying

I had one of the most profound parenting experiences of my life last night.

We've been trying to get Simon started on the Harry Potter stories, thinking the story of the quirky boy will resonate with him and that the ultimate bad guy will hold massive appeal. We've told him about Voldemort to entice him, but it's been rough going, because we're only about 30 pages in and it's been too slow for him.

Last night  I read a few pages but we still didn't get to anything juicy. When I stopped reading and turned out the light, Simon started to get really angry.  He wailed and insisted that he wanted me to keep reading and hear about Voldemort. I quickly realized the feelings he was showing were way bigger than warranted for the situation, so I decided to try and give him space to show whatever was going on.

I kept gently saying "We're done reading for the night honey.  We can read more tomorrow". He started wailing loud enough that Laura poked her head in to make sure everything was okay. He sobbed and quieted down in cycles but then started ramping up to real crying.  At one point he used the word "heartbroken" and my eyes started to sting with tears.Then, all of a sudden, in the middle of a jag about Voldemort,  he choked out, "He makes me want to cry!".  I almost sat bolt upright in bed. This was the first time he had ever said anything close to "When x happens, I feel y".  I kept lying with him, trying to see what else he had to show me.

He kept crying real tears and clearly feeling more sad than mad, so I started saying something to him that I used to say when he was a baby in the hospital. I used it especially when he was having painful procedures done or one of the multiple times he was septic and feeling godawful.  I kept softly repeating, "I hear you Simon.  I hear how upset you are.  I'm right here".  Everytime I'd say it he would cry harder.

At one point I said, "I hear how sad you are Simon. I wanted to let you know that I'm not sad, I'm feeling okay, so I can be here with you and listen while you're sad".  He stopped crying and I thought for a moment.  I said, "Simon, do you want me to be sad too?".  Quietly, he said, "Yes".  I asked, "Do you want me to cry too?"  He said yes.  I started to fake cry and he started sniffling and sounding like he might cry.  Then I started to real cry a little and he began to cry again.  After a few minutes of this, he settled down a bit and started talking, in a small, sad voice.

What he proceeded to do blew me away.

He went through a series of approximately 20 characters from movies, books, TV shows and his life. For each one, he said they were crying and then, with prompting, told me why.

It went like this:
Simon: Barbie is crying
Me: Why is Barbie crying?
Simon: Because her Dreamhouse is gone.
Me: Oh, that's so so sad. She must be so sad.

Here are just a few that I can remember:
Professor Callahan (Big Hero 6) is crying because his daughter is gone
The Boov (from the movie Home) are crying because their planet is gone
Rosetta (from the Disney Fairies) is crying because Tinkerbell is gone
MM (Laura's Mom) is crying because her daughter is gone.
The Storm Troopers are crying because their guns are gone (this one particularly got me)

It went on like this for about 20 minutes.  The thing that struck me most was that each person lost the thing that meant the very most to them. They weren't crying because they lost a comic book, or a toy. They lost their person or their planet or the most identifying thing about them. I just lay in stunned silence between each version.

A few times I asked him why he was crying or why he was sad.  He would get really quiet. At one point I said, "Do you know why you are sad or do you just have sad feelings?"  He quickly said, "Sad feelings".  He mostly didn't want me to touch him but at one point I put my hand on his chest. I asked him if he wanted me to leave it or take it off, he said to leave it.  I explained that sometimes when I feel sad it feels tight in my chest and sometimes tight in my throat too.  When I asked him if it felt like that for him, he said yes.

When it seemed like things were winding down, I asked why he was sad one more time. He thought for a minute and said, "My father is gone".  I had a moment of "Oh, God, are we having this conversation right now?" but decided to just roll with it and ask who his father was.  He answered "Darth Vader". I breathed a silent sigh of relief and silently chuckled.

More clues this morning when he and I were playing with 2 of his dolls.  He told me my doll wasn't feeling well and that his doll was the doctor.  I asked him what was wrong with my doll, and when he didn't answer, I decided to try to push a little. I said, "Oh, Doctor I'm so glad you're here.  My heart feels sick".  He turned his doll around immediately and said "Not available".  Trying to keep my face neutral, I said, "Oh, sorry, I mean my knee hurts".  His doll came over and did a little treatement and said, "There!  Now you're all better".  My doll thanked his doll and we went on our merry way.

I'm just so in awe of how sophisticated his brain is and heartbroken about how sad he is. What he described with all his examples is the most deep, existential grief.  His way of communicating what is happening inside reminds me so much of the autistic boy in "Life Animated" (an INCREDIBLE read/listen- highly recommend it if you want to understand Simon).

What has happened in the last 12 hours just reminds me that we can't come at any of this head on with Simon, but if we take one step back to give him some space and listen carefully, he is speaking volumes.