I was curled up in Dad’s recliner, rocking, reading Crime Solver Club #28 - not the latest in the series, but the newest one the library had - when Davey came and stood in front of me. Staring. Smiling. Not saying a word. He did this when he wanted something. I snuck glances at him over the top of the book every few seconds. He was like a statue. I could barely see his chest rise as he breathed. And I never looked long enough to see him blink. He knew I could only resist for so long.
Still, I made him wait at least a minute while I finished the chapter I was reading. It must have felt like an eternity to his 6-year-old self. Being still was not in his DNA. He was constantly moving - even while watching TV, he would shift positions every few seconds.
Even after I finished the chapter, I pretended to read for a few seconds more. Then slowly, purposefully put my bookmark in place, closed the book, swung my legs down to the floor, set the book on the side table and brushed my hair back behind my shoulders. I really drew it out. Then I looked at Davey and gave what I knew to be a pretend smile but what I hoped he would see as a genuine one.
“Hi.” That’s all I gave him.
“Let’s have a picnic,” Davey said. He was fairly restrained about it. I thought he’d jump out of his skin with whatever it was he was waiting to tell me. But he just said the words and went back to smiling, his hands clasped behind his back.
I stood and grabbed my book. “No thanks,” I said and headed towards the stairs, hoping I could retreat to my room.
My foot had just landed on the first step when Davey called after me, “Mom says you have to.”
Now I was frozen in place, one foot on a stair, grasping the banister. I looked back at Davey. He grinned.
“No she didn’t,” I said and resumed walking up to my room.
“MOOOOMMM!” Davey hollered. I crunched my shoulders up to my ears but kept walking.
“Have a picnic with your brother, Grace,” Mom called from somewhere in the depths of our house.
I sighed and turned back around and marched myself down the stairs.
Five minutes later and Davey and I are in the backyard, sitting on a blanket spread over the grass. We don’t have an official picnic basket, so I improvised, throwing sandwiches, fruit, crackers and cookies into an empty Amazon box. Davey was so excited that we did have a checkered blanket that he didn’t even care about the box-basket substitute.
I handed Davey his ham and cheese sandwich and grabbed my turkey sandwich. Davey peeked into the box as I took a big bite of my sandwich.
“No plates?” he asked, a little concern crossing his face.
“Nah,” I said with my mouth full of bread and turkey. I chewed and swallowed. “Just hold it. Or put it down on the blanket if you need to. It’s clean.”
Davey made an unsure frown. “It’s fine, I promise,” I reassured him.
Sometimes, Davey gets an idea in his head and wants things to play out exactly as he imagined it. When it doesn’t go exactly his way, he can have a tough time mentally adjusting. Mom and Dad say that, when we can, when it’s reasonable, we should try to help Davey create his ideal situation. But that it’s also ok when we don’t. After all, he has to learn that things won’t always go 100% his way or be exactly as he expects them to be.
Davey was still hesitating though. Not eating his sandwich, looking at the edge of the blanket where a couple of ants were exploring.
Then I realized. It’s because Davey doesn’t just take a bite of his sandwich, he pulls everything apart and eats one ingredient at a time. Cheese, then ham, then bread. He needed a place to put the sandwich pieces while eating.
“Here,” I said, “Just balance the bread and ham on your knee, like this,” I showed him how with my own sandwich.
Davey nodded but said, “No, it’s not that.”
“Ok…” I said. I wasn’t sure whether or not I should ask. I chose to take another bite of my sandwich.
Davey was fixated on the ants now.
“Just shoo them away,” I said, the bread and turkey rolling around in my mouth. When Davey didn’t move, I started to get up to shoo the ants for him.
“No!” Davey screamed, prompting me to quickly plop back in my seat on the blanket.
“Geez, sorry Davey,” I said, a little exhausted with trying (and usually failing) to predict what was on Davey’s mind. “You shoo them then if they’re bothering you.”
“They’re not bothering me,” Davey said. “I’m listening to them.”
“Oh, ok,” I rolled my eyes and took another bite of my sandwich.
“Really,” Davey said with all seriousness. “This ant was asking what we have to eat. But this other ant was trying to say they shouldn’t talk to us. Then the first ant said it was fine because he knows I’m nice to ants, he saw me talking to his cousin earlier today.”
Davey set his sandwich on the blanket now and laid on his stomach so his nose was barely an inch away from the biggest ant that had invaded our blanket.
“Uh, Davey, are you feeling ok?” I looked toward the house. “Should I get Mom?”
Davey shook his head. He put a finger to his lips and motioned for me to lay down on my stomach, too.
While I hated that my world always seemed to be about pleasing Davey, I went with it. If I had to have a picnic with him, at least it was interesting.
I laid down as quietly as I could, and got right up close to Davey and the ants.
I saw one ant turn to face me, it’s antennae wiggling. Then it turned toward Davey.
“Safe?” I heard. I looked at Davey. He nodded. I tried to figure out how Davey was able to throw his voice like that, make it sound like the ant had spoken. I was still looking at Davey when I heard “Food?”
Davey’s mouth hadn’t moved. I looked at the ant. It was still facing Davey, it’s antennae wiggling in all directions.
“Davey…” I couldn’t think of what to say, what to ask.
“I know. It’s awesome!” Davey whispered. “Hand me a cracker. No! A blueberry.”
I handed Davey a blueberry. What else could I do?