A couple of months ago as I drove Philip to the store, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Philip leaning over in his car seat to look out the front window. I was amused by his sudden interest in where we were going and what he could see up ahead.
“Red means stop and green means go,” I said.
A few weeks later on one of those days when the temperatures were deceptively spring-like despite the fact that the calendar indicates that it is winter, Philip and I went for a long walk with the dog. Our route took us past an intersection with a traffic light. We ended up walking down the block backwards so that Philip could keep watching the stoplight change colors.
A month later, while wracking my brain for something new to draw for Philip, I realized that almost everything else I’ve ever drawn for him has been monochromatic. That’s not to say that Philip only ever draws in one color, but he usually picks a color, uses it, then switches. I’ve never drawn a face with red lips, green eyes and brown hair for him and I’ve never seen him do this either.
I thought about his interest in traffic lights. I grabbed one of his notebooks and four markers: red, yellow, green and a gray for the background. I drew the three circles inside a rectangle and showed it to Philip.
He studied my drawing, as he is apt to do. He then went back to drawing whatever else it was that he had before. However, when he turned the page, he took three markers and drew three parallel lines: red, yellow, green.
He had noticed.
And that was that. I never saw that pattern of color or an effort to mimic my crude traffic light again. At least, I didn’t until this weekend.
I saw one of Philip’s coloring books on the kitchen table.
“Hey, Peter,” I yelled to my husband. “Look-a stoplight!”
The next day, I flipped through the pages of the book.
Philip had taken my model and done it one better. He had added the pole.
These simple drawings actually remind me of an important lesson: I need to give Philip time. He needs time to process. I have to admit that I need the reminder. Philip’s brain works in a different way. If I make a request, I can’t assume he isn’t listening or that he is refusing me just because he doesn’t respond RIGHT NOW. He needs time to hear what I’ve said, figure out what it means and to take action in response.
I guess I need my own little mental traffic light. Red means stop, don’t try to rush Philip. I may be in a hurry, but if I run this light, there will be a crash.
I need to wait for Philip to give me the green light.