So, we went field herp-ing.
If you have no idea what that is, you are in good company. I had no idea either until a few nights ago (read the full story here).
At first, I was prepared to say no… to explain to Sourdough all the reasons it was a really bad idea to go out into the desert, looking for snakes that could potentially be venomous, wearing shorts and crocs (because that is all he will usually comfortably wear).
Then, as he continued to tell me all the things he knew about snake bites and care, I thought maybe I can have Mick take him (no judgement, it’s been a long week).
As I was getting ready to tell him we should talk to Mick about it when he got home from work, I noticed something… something huge.
He was making eye contact the entire conversation.
Not only that, he was animated and joyful. There was an inflection in his voice that we don’t often hear. He wasn’t lecturing me about field herping. He was simply an 11 year old boy, trying to convince his mom to do something cool.
I caught my breath for a moment. My heart swelled. I was like the Grinch. I could actually feel it’s weight in my chest.
At that point, there was no way we were not going. If one, or both of us got bit by a rattler, so be it.
I asked him what field herpers (not sure that is a word, but let’s go with it) typically wear. He said he would need to put on pants and shoes. Pants and shoes. Just like that. No meltdown. Just, pants and shoes.
Well now, I really was all in. We have been working on the sensory issues, that drastically affect his feet, for the better part of a year in OT. We have seen some success, with going barefoot for a few seconds, but never wearing actual shoes. He wears crocs, and we thank Jesus that we live in Southern CA and can get away with it year round.
Pants are the same thing. They overstimulate his legs and he can’t take it. Usually.
Until field herping that is.
I know his “repetitive interests” (also often referred to by experts as fixations, perseverations, and even obsessions) serve a purpose. I have read all the articles and heard all the doctors.
They help to relieve social anxiety. They give him something to talk about when he has no idea what to say next. They give his incredibly smart and wildly capable brain something to learn about in great detail, cataloging information until he exhausts the topic and moves on to another similar one. (For example, Sourdough had no interest in snakes until recently. He used to be crazy for frogs. Then geckos. You can the see the progression of more and more information being gathered, all within the general interest of reptiles and amphibians.)
I have experienced all of this to be true, especially as he matures.
But this time was different. This time, the interest was allowing him to break out of his comfort zone. Snakes and field herping allowed him to break the usual shackles of his own rigid thinking, and just try something fun and exciting.
You will never again hear me complain about fixations (well, maybe some of the byproducts of them like 2AM mania… but not the fixations themselves, deal?).
I actually said a quick, desperate prayer before we left that we wouldn’t find anything – because, you know, we really don’t need to add a king snake to the mix around here, and off we went.
It. Was. Beautiful.
We laughed. We watched the sun set. We tried to catch a few small, nonthreatening lizards. And then we went out for a slushy on the way home.
Just like any other boy and his momma.
What an amazing blessing.
This morning, I thanked God for my son’s brain.
The more I get to know it, the more I see the beauty and strength that is wired in and all jumbled up with this thing we call high functioning autism.
I want to see more of it. I pray I get glimpses like this one, over and over again, until the full picture emerges.
I thanked God for field herping (never, ever thought that would be on the list).
And I thanked Him for trusting me with this child.