Sisyphus

We ordered two tons of pea-sized gravel for our driveway in May. When it was delivered, I smugly said to Peter, “This is so much nicer-looking than those larger rocks.”

Four months later, I sit, one hip resting on my dew-damp lawn, hunting for small, displaced stones and regretting my choice. I discover that grass does not grow like a five-year-old’s drawing, all straight green lines evenly spaced on a paper-flat horizon. Instead, grass and weeds sprout up intertwined from uneven ground. The rocks that should be in my driveway hide in crevices, and my searching fingers catch in the roots of clovers.

I locate a stone and toss it back into the driveway. Meanwhile, Philip scoops up rocks from the drive, runs past me, and flings them across the yard.

I can’t keep up.

The rule “Rocks stay in the driveway,” is of no concern to Philip. “Let’s go to the backyard,” sends him running to the backyard, but he doesn’t stop running until he has circled back to the front of the house. He doesn’t answer when I ask, “Why are you throwing rocks in my yard?!”

I make up my own answers to the question. He loves the feel of the rough, dusty rocks on his fingers. He wants to watch them resist gravity when he throws them in the air. He enjoys hearing the soft thud as the gravel hits the ground.

Philip’s sensory-seeking shot through the roof as soon as he started kindergarten. He has been upending the boxes and shelves in his basement playroom. I catch him dismounting like a gymnast from the dresser in his room. He whirls like a Dervish in our living room, head tilted back, eyes closed, giggling in delight, unwinding from the day. Afraid that he will crash into the TV or aquarium, I take him outside to burn off energy. I imagine he invented the gravel-in-the-grass game as kindergarten stress relief. That’s why I don’t make him stop. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I collect several pieces of gravel in my palm before dumping them in their rightful place. In the same amount of time, Philip has already distributed two more handfuls in the grass and still had the chance to trace shapes in the rocks that remain in the driveway.

I ask myself more questions: Would a better parent know how to stop Philip?  Am I creating bigger discipline problems down the road by allowing this to continue? Am I using autism as an excuse for both him and me?

I don’t answer my own questions. Instead, I punish myself by picking up the tiny boulders scattered in my yard, knowing there will always be more to pick up.

32 thoughts on “Sisyphus

      1. I was going to ask what are the risks if the pebbles are run over by the lawn mower. If the risks are small, I would have let him play too. Maybe his interest in the pebbles will wane once he finds his groove in K?

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  1. I think this is definitely a case of ‘choose your battles.’ I couldn’t help but grin as I read through the post, picturing him gleefully throwing the stones, while you put them back. You captured the moment perfectly.

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  2. Love the way you described everything 🙂 You made me smile, nod, wince all at the same time because it felt familiar. Letting loose sensory wise feels really good I think. Shaving creme used to be what my boy loved to get into 🙂 Patience and choosing my battles weighted against what makes him feel better is what I try…”I try” because some days are better then others depending on what Johnny gets into. Have you thought about turning your basement into a sensory spot for him? Bean bags, ball pits etc and putting a lot of the toys into hard to get into clear bins so you can create lots of interactions but have a bit of control of chaos. Johnny went through a time like when he was in kindergarten because lets face it the kindergarten rooms are full of too much visual stimuli for our visual learners. He’d come home and dump the bins that he was getting stopped at doing at school. His old preschool teacher told me to try and reduce the visual stimuli at home to balance what he was going through at school…bin some of this toys up and keep it more simple but he knows where it all is and let him have one big bin where he can go to town. Lots of bean bags and cushions to throw himself into helps too. Have fun:)

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      1. Hey the upside is the toys you hide become all new happy shiny fun things again when you re-introduce them:) now Johnny will actually start putting some stuff away himself and say “it’s just too much Mommy.” At least you have kept your sense of humour because it helps when the “I don’t want to be beige” phase starts. Sigh.

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  3. way too hard on yourself. i’m sure he has plenty of scheduled time where he can’t whirl like a dervish. as an aside, i’ve heard that the spinning is really soothing and positive both mentally and physically.

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        1. Over the summer, he took the rocks to the backyard and threw them in his pool. And I’m sure he’d love to throw rocks in the lake near our house, but I’d have a hard time keeping him out of the lake. Rocks in the yard it is!

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  4. Love this, Cyn! I’d probably do the same thing. I mean, he’s enjoying the game. I have had my own gravel driveway battles. The first year I lived in NJ, we had gravel in our long driveway. Whenever it rained, our driveway became a river and the gravel washed into the street. I paved it a few months later 😉

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  5. I once wanted to order pea gravel – so nice in the bin at the landscape store. Tom said no way. After reading your entry I’m glad he responded the way he did! Your piece reminds me of all the ideas I’ve had and insisted on doing – like the brick patio where each brick weighed 8 pounds and I thought I’d die before it got done!

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  6. I just love the visuals you always create. I feel like I’m right there with you, trying to figure out what best to do in the situation. I know my boys would have a field day with that type of gravel!

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  7. The best line in the movie Forrest Gump is when Jen-nay visits her old house and starts throwing stones at her old house full of abuse and torment and Forrest says “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks”.

    This has nothing to do with your deal, I just wanted to seem deep.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, and this was well-written.

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  8. I remember as a kid not being able to pass up the chance to shove my hand and arm in the jawbreaker bins of the candy store in the mall. It just felt too cool not to do, even though I knew it was gross to others. I think I know how Philip feels when he reaches into the gravel and throws it.

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  9. I love the myth of Sisyphus and think of him often as I try to keep up with the never-ending pile of correcting I always seem to have. This was a perfect image for this piece.

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