Bryce was thrilled by the time our company came Saturday night. He didn’t speak to any of them as they walked down our hall or while they stepped into our unit. He gave them—or himself—a few minutes to acquaint with his home. He let them look around the space, see what was his. Then he warmed up.
He jumped around. He leaped and fell to the floor. He got his microphone and sang. He pulled in the little blue keyboard and played. His voice rose with excitement. He was fine until I told him to have a seat. All the little wind blew from his sails.
He stared at me as if to judge whether I was serious. I held his little eyes with my own, saying nothing for a long enough moment for his head to tilt in question form. The image of his black hair moving, the rest of his body upright, was the image of a question mark. I asked if he heard me. He nodded. I offered my predictable, “Well?”
I knew what would happen. All those onlookers made it too interesting for him to comply. I imagined all the questions running in his mind, all of his body’s little needs which his brain burst from left to right. Why obey when the command from the big guy was to sit? He can’t really expect me to sit. There’s too much to be done. Circles to run in, leaps to jump, people with arms to rush. So much to be done. My daddy must be playing.
I wasn’t. My look was not ambiguous. I asked better questions: would you like a time out? Do you need a timeout? No was his reply to these. Again, he was predictable. Often, when I talk about timeouts, I use the language of Bryce considering his ways. My question may be: do you need a moment to consider your ways? Or, would you like to sit and consider things?
So I invited him to a conversation. Sometimes I send him to the chair to consider. Sometimes I talk to him first. Saturday, before sending him to the space where he could, alone, consider how soon he should respond to his father, I brought him to the other room. We talked, together. I explained what he knew. He yessed in the form of several nods, his head moving up and down with the only interruption being occasional glances to the room where everything fun was happening without him.
We went back into the room. He sat down immediately. He had heard me. He had understood me just like his nodding said. But it all started again moments later. All the same questions. All the same answers. Except that there was no additional consultation. There was only high-pitched screaming as he walked away from the social climate that he loved and traded it for the lonely spot he didn’t.