I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera.
Santa Claus was at the bonus Home Depot Kids Workshop the Saturday after Thanksgiving. While I knew Philip wouldn’t pose for a photo on the stranger’s lap, I thought I could at least snap a picture of him standing near the jolly old elf.
Even without Santa, I still wanted to take pictures. Peter had trusted me to take Philip to the workshop by myself. I was secretly relieved. Peter gets impatient, often taking over when Philip is distracted. “What’s the point of bringing him if you aren’t going to let him finish?” is the question I never ask out loud. Peter is about the product while I’m all about the process. With Peter absent, I could let Philip take as much time as he needed on the toolbox project, especially the painting.
Even though painting is his favorite part, Philip aided in the assembly without prompting. First he helped squeeze wood glue on the edges. Then he assisted me as I slid the bottom piece into the side grooves. He eagerly grabbed the hammer with me to pound in the nails. I was proud of him.
I was proud of myself, too. When we come to these workshops, I usually relinquish the kit to Peter. It irks me to act out the helpless female role. Even though I defer to Peter not because I’m a woman, but because I am an uncoordinated klutz, I hate knowing I’m conforming to a gender stereotype.
After the tool box was put together, we moved over to the table with paint. Philip made a beeline for the first gap in the table, but I steered him to the end. I plopped the iPad on the table in front of the plain toolbox and asked Philip, “What color do you want to paint it?”
I asked the question not expecting an answer, but Philip tapped two buttons on his iPad.
“Pink,” was his response.
The pink paint was in small tray near us. I smiled, knowing that Philip’s speech therapist has been working on colors with him.
“Yes,” I agreed, “that’s pink.”
Philip picked up the foam brush and started to paint.
My smile faded. I wanted to grab his hand and stop him.
Wasn’t I glad that Philip could paint uninterrupted? Wasn’t I happy that Philip was using his iPad to communicate? Wasn’t I pleased that Philip was using words practiced in therapy out in public? Why would I want to contradict him?
Because he chose pink. Because boys aren’t supposed to choose pink.
Just thinking this made my cheeks turn the same color as the tool box. I was no longer proud of myself. Here I was, the fierce mama bear that defends her autistic son against narrow-minded people who can’t accept his neurological differences, worrying that someone might see his pink toolbox and judge him.
It’s just a color. It belongs to anyone who wants it.
Instead of stopping Philip, I stopped myself.
As Philip painted, I smiled at his thoroughness. As usual, he dipped until he had too much pink paint on the brush. I reached in and scraped some off before letting him continue. It was my fault that pink paint ended up on the back of his coat, his iPad case, the diaper bag, and all over my hands.
By the end, I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera.
That toolbox was definitely worthy of a photograph.
Correction: that pink toolbox was very photogenic.