Max's bus arrives at 6:55am and that has been the norm for Max since the age of three. The ticket for Max to have a successful morning is making sure everything is in order before I even wake him up. Make sure his egg is in the pan, toast in the toaster and milk poured. For about two months now I have been letting Max pick out his own clothes combinations. Shirt and shorts. After twelve and half years of dressing him, I'm glad we graduated to the next step. For the most part Max does a awesome job. Sometimes though, he feels if his pants have a pattern in them, so should the shirt. I feel blessed that he can now dress himself.
This morning was off to a good start. Max walked into the kitchen put his red apron on and sat at the table. I have struggled these last six months to find a jam or jelly that he would like, to no avail. I decided to do what I did as a kid. A little sprinkle of sugar. Max loves to talk about random stuff and while he observed his strawberries on his plate he anxiously shared he had homework.
"Oh, did you sign my PE form...I need my tennis shoes." Max returns to the table with shoes in hand. "I have to take my shoes today."
I took a deep breath and exhaled with discouragement. His dirty shoes sat near my feet. I failed as a mom, not catching earlier how dirty his tennis shoes were after Boys Scout camp. "Max, Mom needs to wash them before you can take them. I will send a note to the PE coach about the shoes."
Max moved his body in my direction. "Mom I have to have my shoes and you need to sign my paper."
I stopped myself from looking at the clock, knowing the bus should be here in the next couple of minutes.
Max continues holding the strawberries. "Mom these strawberries have mold on them. Look mom, look at these strawberries. I can't eat them they will make me sick. Why can't you buy the good ones at the store mom, the ones that are good?"
I contemplated whether I could put on the mean hat and tell him he needs to eat it or should I place the gentle hat on and tell him he doesn't have to eat it. I told myself several times over the years that I can't let him get away with everything because of the autism.
"Max you have been upset with me when I don't buy you strawberries and now you won't eat the ones I buy. You have to eat. You are a big boy now and you need to eat what is on your plate."
Max holds up the strawberry. "Look at the mold mom. Look how moldy it is."
Max had two strawberries on his plate and time was passing quickly. He still needed to finish his homework, brush his hair and teeth, and I needed to get his lunch in his back pack.
"Max, I would never give you strawberries with mold on them. You need to eat one of them."
I was proud that he took the strawberry and ate it.
He quickly moved to the other side of the table where I had his homework. Max has a hard time using a pencil because he pushes to hard on the paper and ripes it. I have bought mechanical pencils for him hoping it would help. He placed the mechanical pencil in his hand."Mom there is no lead in this pencil. I frantically look in my pencil box near the telephone. "Use this one."
Max runs his fingers over the paper. "What do I do on this paper, Mom?"
I read it out loud. "What is the best way for you to learn?" Right next to the question Max had printed the word "tactile". I guess he wrote that in class yesterday.
"Well Max what helps you to learn? I think you like to touch the item and feel if it's hard or soft. You like to look at it to see how it's made. Think about your Lego's and how you decide to build your buildings and airplanes."
"Mom this is not what I mean. I can't understand what the question is."
"Max it's asking you how do you best learn or understand stuff. Are you a visual learner, hands on learner or do you like to read the instructions?"
Max got very frustrated and dropped the pencil on the table. His eyes met mine with a overwhelming need for help with the question. I decided the time was running out and I heard the engine the bus was at our doorstep. I picked up the paper place it in his folder and told him to finish it at school.
Then I placed his lunch sack in his back pack and we walked to the restroom to brush his hair and teeth. When he walked out the front door with the viola strap and back pack on his shoulder. I was pleased that he has grown into the sweet loving boy that once was difficult to handle. He continues to take one step forward and two steps back, but in my heart he has grown two steps forward and one step back.
Sunday he asked me what charity meant and what does it mean to be humble. Honestly I believe those are two words that describe my Magnificent Max.