The Boy was agitated Saturday, it seemed like all day. Nothing was working right for him, he couldn’t find things when he needed them, and he was on edge. Everyone has days like this, but not everyone’s agitation could end up in a full blown meltdown, so I was also on edge as a result.
We tried to take it easy, and take him places he would enjoy. He particularly loves to go to dealerships with The Man and look at cars, and sit in as many as he can to check out the interior dome lights, one of his obsessions. While we were pulling in to the local flea mall, where The Man bought him a toy Town & Country van similar to the one that now picks him up for school in the morning, The Boy spotted a place that repairs cars, and sometimes sells used ones. He made us promise we would stop to look at the cars when we were done at the flea mall, and we complied.
When we stopped, I stayed in the car, as I usually do, because I am not obsessed with cars, and quickly become bored. The Man is fairly deft at handling The Boy and redirecting him when necessary on these excursions. But today, The Boy opened a car door, and The Man found a key in the ignition. It was fairly important to get that key back to the shop, so I carefully watched The Boy as The Man went inside. The Boy, of course, began to flit toward cars that I couldn’t be certain didn’t belong to anyone, because people leave their cars unlocked down here.
He chose a Saab sitting next to the shop, and when he opened the back door to see the some lights, I saw a jacket and a tennis racket inside, and realized this was someone’s car! I carefully steered him away, trying to explain that we couldn’t go in that car because it wasn’t for sale, and The Boy wasn’t quite understanding – if they belonged to someone, why were they open? Then he chose a Jeep right in front of the shop, and The Man motioned to him from inside to get out of that one, too. That one was also not for sale.
I redirected him toward the front section of cars, and let him be until the Man returned. It was then we realized The Boy was upset.
He “has” an imaginary Chevy Sonic, to which he has created a set of keys, complete with a computer-generated and printed key fob with lock, unlock, and alarm buttons, as well as a cat charm. He takes them to school everyday. The key is an actual key that was an engraving mistake from the hardware store, given to him for free.
As his eyes brimmed with tears, he told me that he had to give up his Sonic now, and trade it in for a Land Rover.
This was his punishment, I believe for going in cars that he wasn’t supposed to. Neither The Man nor I had been upset with him, but he felt like he had done something wrong, and needed a punishment, so his “car” needed to be traded in.
I felt awful for him, and I didn’t really know how to help. I insisted he didn’t need to give up his Sonic, and then tried to redirect his attention elsewhere. When we stopped at the hardware store on the way home, he picked up another key, deciding that he needed to replace his current keys with Land Rover keys… OK. Whatever you need to do.
This morning, he announced that he was able to return the Land Rover and exchange it for the Sonic, so something had shifted, and all was right in his world again. These are the times when I would love to have just an hour inside his head…