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.