It is one tenth of a mile from my parents’ driveway to the north end of their street. Philip, Roscoe and I were at their house for supper last night. Even though I let him play in their back yard, Roscoe was insistent that I take him for a walk. I wanted to get home, so I planned a quick trip to the end of the block and back. A mere two-tenths of a mile. There are no sidewalks, so the three of us would walk along one curb, cross the street and come back on the other side.
Philip had his own idea.
When we reached the T intersection, Philip went right.
“Wait,” I called and took his hand. “We’re crossing the street and going back.”
I’m not sure if it was hearing the word “back” or the act of turning around, but Philip balked. He began to whimper, so I relented and followed him around the block.
Philip prefers his journeys to take the form of a circuit. Nothing is more upsetting to him than being told we are going on a walk, exiting the house and then having me say, “Wait, I forgot a bag for Roscoe!” As I backtrack to the house, he will begin to cry. While it may only take me a couple of seconds for this detour, it takes several minutes for Philip to calm down and enjoy our resumed walk. That’s why if it begins to rain after we have started our walk, I resign myself to getting wet. Philip would rather have that inconvenience than the anxiety of changing directions.
I try to vary our walking routines by following different paths, but each route must be a round trip. The closest I’ve come to avoiding this requirement is walking along a cul-de-sac. As long as I let Philip follow the curve of the curb, always going forward, he finds this way acceptable.
When we returned to my parents’ house last night, Mom asked if we had gone all the way around.
“Yes,” I responded. “Philip doesn’t like to turn around and come back.”
She stared at me.
“He gets upset and cries,” I continued.
“I guess he has you trained,” was Mom’s response.
Yes, I guess he does. Honestly, there are times I’m feeling tired or lazy, and that’s the only reason I want to turn around. Giving into Philip means that I get a bit more exercise.
Yet, I also think of all of the times that I don’t let him have his way. I think of how the world will be as inflexible as he is. So what if I have to walk a little farther or get a little wet? I know that being made to turn around is distressing to Philip. The world may not be so willing to acknowledge or accept this. Teachers will ask him to complete tasks that he doesn’t want to. Life will require that he change direction even when he doesn’t want to. There are circumstances in which I will have to force him to comply, and he’ll have to learn to deal with it. For now, I’d rather offer him my patience and understanding.
For now, when we go out for a stroll, there is no turning back.