Crazy Baby -- By Laura Houston
My youngest son Wyatt is a little weird. The kids on the playground are not always sure how to handle him. The other day he walked up to a seven-year old and took his hand. The boy thought it was cute. Until Wyatt placed the kid’s arm in his mouth and started to make strange noises. The kid pulled his arm away and recoiled while wiping the slobber from his forearm.
“Ewww,” he said. “That’s creepy.”
I wanted to say to the kid, “You have no idea.”
Wyatt has more than his fair share of peculiarities. He doesn’t like to transition from one surface to another when walking. For instance, when we go to the park, he will stay on the blanket because he does not want to cross over to the grass. He runs from one end of the blanket to the other – always stopping just before the edge. His precision on this is remarkable. Not so much as a toe goes over. When Wyatt is walking on the grass, he doesn’t like to cross over to the pavement. He doesn’t like it when the tiles in our lobby change color. He won’t walk on the darker ones.
Wyatt also likes to make the same noise over and over again, whether it’s bodily noises such as vibrating his lips together, or by throwing a plastic toy down on the wood floor repeatedly to listen to it reverberate, or by banging on aluminum bowls with his bottle. If I study him rather than go insane by the noise, I can see he is processing. He doesn’t hit the bowls in the same spot. Sometimes he doesn’t hit as hard. And when he notices a change in sound, he gets excited.
On the playground he prefers to find the girls. When he sees pink, he’s on it. Yesterday he walked over to a couple of very polite four-year olds who were playing catch. He came up to them doing his “wubba-wubba” serenade where he plugs his mouth with his fist while humming. They laughed, so he immediately tried to steal their sparkly ball. They started playing keep-away from Wyatt, and he walked back and forth doing his wubba-wubba and trying to touch their hair or get the ball. It was fun for them at first because they thought he was cute, but after about ten minutes of trying to enjoy their game and avoid Wyatt, one of them asked: “What’s wrong with him?”
My husband often asks this, too. He wants to have Wyatt tested. Me? Not so much. I think he’s fine, and if he’s not fine, I don’t want to know. Not yet. I am enjoying motherhood right now, and I don’t want to discover that my child has a development disorder or a learning problem. Or a tick. Or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or any of the other things the DSM manual will say is wrong with him. Right now I want to live in ignorant bliss. Even if it’s just for a little while.
We named Wyatt Mark after my brother. We want Wyatt to have some of Mark’s traits. My brother is a rare, wonderful soul. Both my husband and I have great respect for how Mark carries himself through life. He is happy with very little, and he won’t compromise his happiness. Mark doesn’t seek status in possessions or a big house. He waited more than 40 years to find the love of his life because he was not willing to settle for anything less. He’d rather live alone and happy rather than securely coupled with the wrong person. He loves dogs, books, music, movies, and the great outdoors. These are all things my husband and I wanted our kids to know and love, as well.
And Wyatt lives up to his namesake. He is happy with very little. Twin bother Lyle prefers to play with the big Elmo airplane with all of its lights and noises or my giant fitness ball, and Lyle tires of these toys quickly. Wyatt, however, can sit in the corner with a ping pong ball for a long, long time before deciding it’s time to move on to a pair of socks or the dust pan. He also loves books. Unlike his brother, he doesn’t tear them up right away. He carefully dissects the fuzz, fur, and reflective surfaces off the page and lays them in a neat little pile at this side. He also loves to turn the page over and over again to discover that they’re not the same color from one page to the next. With one simple flip, everything is different. How great is that? He laughs.
And if there is one thing Wyatt loves, it’s women. He flirts with Melissa, Kate, Alison and Lili like a pro. He loves their jewelry, their lips, and their hair. He loves to make them laugh. And he especially appreciates it when they make him laugh.
I find all of this to be wonderful and endearing. However, I can’t help but sometimes worry. As I type this, he is walking from one corner of the living room to the other and stopping to lick the chair in between. Sometimes he’ll stop and press his forehead to the floor before getting back to one of the corners. Over and over again. I’ve never seen or heard of a toddler doing this.
New York City has great services. We can call and someone will come out and give a free assessment. They can watch Wyatt play and determine what’s “wrong” with him. Then they can give me a plan to help him. Things to watch for. How to handle the little ticks. That’s great and all, but I think I just have a bizarre little kid who is extremely tactile. I tell myself that he is really a genius, and that his growing brain is simply collecting data about his environment, and someday he will use this data to spring forth and let his brilliance come radiating through. That’s what I say.
However, deep in the back of my mind the little scares pop up like dandelions on the lawn. They are the weeds of fear the doctors planted there years ago when they explained that older women have a greater risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome or a child that has developmental disorders. Hard to shake those fears. Hard to trample them back down. Hard to think how to handle it should they be real. I do look for clues that it’s all OK. I look for connection. I look for eye contact. I look for language.
This morning I dressed Wyatt on our big bed, and when I was finished with the tugging and wrestling, he stood up and put his hands on my shoulders. Then he buried his head in my neck. I rubbed his back, and he hooked his leg around my waist so I could carry him to the kitchen for breakfast. When I asked him if he wanted some milk, he gave an enthusiastic scream in my ear. I gave him a long, deep hug, and he hugged back. We understand each other. That’s all a mom can ask for. For now.