It was hot on Friday. Oh, was it hot. Sweltering, in fact. Muggy and humid and oppressive and Lord-have-mercy hot. My commute home was brutal until the air conditioning in the car was able to overcome the heat of sitting in a parking lot for eight hours in the full sun. It was starting to cloud over as I pulled into the driveway, and a rumble of far-off thunder sounded in the distance.
Great. The kids wanted to go see a movie, and I'd probably be driving in a downpour. Just lovely.
I walked in the door, bid the sitter goodbye, and shouted to the kids that if we were going out to dinner and a movie, we had to get a move on now.
And then came the battle.
My son wanted to wear his rain boots. He'd heard that rumble of thunder, and he was just insistent on it. Normally, this isn't something I would have even batted an eye at, much to his older sister's mortification. She's twelve now, and while she loves her brother deeply, his autism makes him weird and embarrassing sometimes and when you're twelve, that's hard.
I give David a lot of leeway in things like the wearing of knee-high rain boots with shorts or the carrying of Tic-Tacs so he can call them magic beans and tell everyone he has magic beans, but there are also things I have to be insistent on for the greater good. For instance, David sometimes wants to sing loudly when we're out somewhere. I had to put my foot down and tell him he can't do it if we're indoors or if he's bothering someone. It's a battle we fight all the time, because someday, I know I won't be there to oversee him every minute, and being a big forty year old guy singing at the top of his lungs in a grocery store may get him in trouble at some point in the future.
So I told him no to the rain boots, not because they make him look weird, but because he's outgrown them, and I haven't had time to buy him a new pair yet. He can, with much straining and effort, squish his feet in, but he's sure to get blisters if he wears them for more than a few minutes. An entire evening is completely out of the question.
And that's when the meltdown happened. I'm sure the boots were just the straw that broke the camel's back. Anna told me that she and her friends had been screamed at by David in the backyard pool because someone accidentally splashed him, and then he got mad because his favorite DVD was dirty and wouldn't play and he yelled a bit at the babysitter, too. Then I came home, forbid him his rain boots when he knew it was going to rain, and that was just too much.
After a lot of screaming, and hitting and throwing things and me restraining him and calming him down, we finally managed to get him into the car and headed out to the restaurant. I allowed him to wear his raincoat, even though it was still blistering hot outside and the rain hadn't come yet to relieve the heat. Hey, whatever gets him out the door, right?
I kept a worried eye on the rearview mirror all the way to the restaurant, because when he gets like this, it could mean the whole evening is going to be a bust. He sat with his arms crossed and his raincoat hood pulled all the way down, covering his face, but at least he wasn't screaming.
We made it to the restaurant, and as we got out of the car, Anna grabbed my arm. "Mom, he's wearing gloves. Oh my God."
David was indeed wearing gloves. He had warm, fuzzy gloves in the pocket of his raincoat, most likely left over from slightly chillier weather. He had them on and he had his coat zipped as high as it would go, and it was still a bazillion degrees outside with ninety-nine percent humidity. I turned to him and said "David, aren't you hot with those gloves on? And you can unzip your coat if you want. See? The sun is shining."
"No!" He shouted at top volume. And let me tell you, David at top volume is a force of nature. Birds fled the trees, animals ran for cover, and somewhere in a lab, a seismic needle went haywire.
"OK," I said. "Leave 'em on."
And so he did. He drank his coke with his coat on and held it in his gloved hands, and when they brought his food, that was a chicken wing he clutched in his gloved fist. And yes, people were staring at us all over the restaurant, much to Anna's great pre-teen mortification. But David ate. And David didn't scream. And David didn't throw anything. David still wasn't happy yet, but he wasn't freaking out either.
I finally leaned over to talk to him while we were waiting for the check.
"Hey Bubby. Are you ready to take the gloves off yet?"
"No." He was adamant, but not screaming.
"Do they make you feel better, the gloves?"
"Yes. I need them."
"OK. You can keep them on as long as you need them. It's fine." I smiled.
"In case it rains," he said. "I don't want to be cold."
"OK. I understand. You keep them on, if that's what you want to do."
He stared at his hands for a minute. "But maybe I should take them off when we go to the movies," he said. "So I can eat popcorn."
I ruffled his hair. "OK. If you want to."
"OK." He smiled back. "But not yet. Not yet, OK?"
Just like he said, he took them off at the movie so he could eat his popcorn. And didn't Anna and I feel like the fools when they cranked the air conditioning up to arctic levels in the movie theater, and David sat there snug and cozy in his raincoat, while Anna and I huddled together for warmth. When we stepped outside and it was raining a monsoon, David walked in comfort to the car as Anna and I screamed and flailed and ran through the downpour, driving home drenched and bedraggled while David calmly put his gloves back on and pulled his hood off his dry hair.
Maybe David does know what's best, after all.
More from parenting