Beating prompt dependence – an epiphany

Sunday mornings aren’t just for churchly insights, apparently. In our house they’re either frenzied packing up the car for the day’s hike, or, on rainy times like today, Sundays mean luxurious white space in the margins mornings, where everyone’s best self tiptoes from behind the screen of our outer face, and says “Hello World!”

Jeff just did me proud that way. His early rising gives me one on one time with him for several hours before Will my late, nuclear-war sleeper, rouses. With Dad away I also have these precious times of clarity where there’s just us guys here focusing on learning and fun together. For several months we’ve been helping Jeff work on following 2-step directions outside the home – as in “go get the newspaper and bring it back in.” Being highly distractable, this means he usually gets to the mailbox and see something far more interesting in a neighbor’s lawn or a bike rider cruising by. We watch outside the front windows where I have a direct line of sight so when he wanders too greatly we can retrieve him.

There’s also the moments where Jeff is absorbed in his own song, literally. Like today, when he held one hand over an ear to reverberate the noise internally, and crooned some combination of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and Popsicles. At 8 am. Hope the neighbors enjoyed the concert.

The self-talk is normal for him as is distraction, and usually I’ve interrupted after a bit, especially when wandering starts. First I’d try a referential point at the window, because he looks over here now and then – and if it didn’t work, I’d say his name to get him on track. But today I wondered if I’m forcing prompt dependence and doing my usual of failing to let go. I put a stopwatch on and decided to wait him out to see if maybe he’d kick into gear without me, only interrupting if his safety dictated.

Voila! at the 3:06 mark the singing stopped, he looked down, grabbed the papers, closed the mailbox and marched right back up the driveway and into the garage.

Was I lucky today? did he get bored with his song? or did the dozens of prompts become something he remembered, and it rushed back when I was quiet and letting him go?

One of the hardest things for me to do in anything, parenting particularly, is letting go. Today’s epiphany is that sometimes when I stop the prompts, those roots of new growth will push forward. I think of about six other skill sets I’m working with him, and wonder how else to disengage myself and others from the process, so his new roots go deeper. And I pull the lens back further, to wonder about my own struggles, and where else I can stop waiting for my own version of a prompt and in doing so set the magic free.

Jeff’s since been wandering around the house crooning some new tunes, this one a variant of a sing-song I made up for him with “I love Jeff-y. He’s my Jeff-y.” Sure, it’s not age appropriate. But in a world fraught with hate and division, I take heart that there’s one young man who knows he’s loved, and happy to tell the world who he is.