Monday, March 12, 2007

Everybody needs a rock

I've had a book on my mind all week.

It's not Portia Iversen's Strange Son, although my post about that is what sparked my thinking about this book. This comment and this comment made me think about it even more.

The book is Everybody Needs a Rock, a children's book by Byrd Baylor. Here are some excerpts:

"Everybody needs a rock. I'm sorry for kids who don't have a rock for a

"Not just any rock. I mean a special rock
that you find yourself and keep as long as you can - maybe forever."

"If somebody says, 'What's so special about that
rock?' don't even tell them. I don't. Nobody is supposed to know what's special
about another person's rock."
In two scenes toward the end of Strange Son, Portia Iversen talks about the rock that her son Dov carries with him. In both scenes, Dov loses his rock and becomes visibly upset and dysregulated. Dov needs his "special rock;" it grounds him. It is his own, very literal, touchstone.

I've been thinking about Dov and his special rock for the past couple of weeks because I've noticed that Bud has recently had a tight grip on a metaphoric touchstone of his own: the Teletubbies.

Bud has been a fan of the Teletubbies since he was a year old. We don't know why the Tubbies are so special to Bud; we only know that they are. In his early years, Bud was consumed with the Tubbies. His earliest language and his earliest echolalic scripts drew heavily from Tubby-style baby talk. The rest of us had a love/hate relationship with the Tubs - or "the guys," as Bud calls them. We hated their slow-paced repetitive sequences, their infantile words, the banality of their plot lines; we loved how happy they made Bud.

In recent years, Bud's passion for the Teletubbies has come in waves, with each wave seeming to lessen in intensity as the Tubby tide appeared to be going out. In recent months, especially, Bud's interest in other shows and other characters has continued to grow, and while he still played with Tubby characters, the books and the movies sat untouched as Bud seemed to be moving on.

In the past couple of weeks, though, the Tubbies have made a comeback, and life is once again All Tubbies, All the Time. The Tubby movies are in high rotation, the Tubby toys are the only ones getting attention, the Tubby books are strewn throughout the house. I found myself feeling discouraged by their reemergence, and regarding it as a setback. I started wondering if Bud's peers would start to tease him - this seven-year-old who likes baby things. I started to bristle when I saw Bud engage in Tubby-play.

Then I read this post on AutismVox, in which Kristina draws a parallel between the Tubbies and the other "Fab Four" from England: The Beatles.

And that helped me regain some perspective.

What I remembered is this: The Beatles in general, and Paul McCartney specifically, have played the same role in my life for the past thirtyish years that the Tubbies have played in Bud's for the past six. They have grounded me. They've been my rock.

The Beatles didn't really make my first car run smoothly. But as I drove away from the dealership having made the first significant purchase of my adult life, I flipped on the radio and heard the opening strains of "Drive My Car," and I was certain that it was a sign that I had purchased well.

Perhaps Paul McCartney didn't intend to write a song that would make me feel close to my children. But when I listen to his album Flaming Pie, and I hear him sing "It was written that I would love you from the moment I opened my eyes...I'll hold you for the rest of my life," I am certain that he did.

And I know that The Beatles didn't really get me out any faster when my car was stuck in a snowbank last week. They didn't keep Bud and me from being an hour late to school and work. But, even so, as we sat waiting for rescue with the engine running and listened to the radio play "Help me if you can I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round," I felt strangely reassured.

My connection to the Beatles hasn't kept me from branching out. I listen to lots of different music. I have a wide range of interests. But despite that, the Beatles always lurk on the periphery of my life, and now and then - especially in the midst of challenge - they take center stage.

I imagine, though I wouldn't ask (because "nobody is supposed to know what's special about another person's rock"), that the Tubbies provide the same sort of comfort, shelter, and sense of home for Bud. In that context, I can see clearly why the Tubbies came back in full force during what probably felt to Bud like an extended period of upside-down: a week of too-sick-to-go-to-school, followed by a week of school vacation, followed by a week of Nana-and-Papa-are-on-vacation-and-every-day-is-a-little-bit-different-from-the-last. Though Bud has been revisiting the passion he's had since he was a baby, he is not reliving his infancy. He is approaching the Tubbies as a seven-year-old: working with me to add his Tubby books to his Library Thing account, reading their stories out loud to me, inviting me to help him create elaborate Tubbylands on the kitchen table, playing Director as he makes his characters act out the scenes on the videos he's watching, filling pages with gorgeous abstract art in purple, green, yellow, and red.

He's not talking like a baby. He's not "retreating into his own world." He's not regressing.

He's grounding himself.

And we all do that in some way, don't we? Sometimes the things that ground us are actually made of stone. Sometimes they're fuzzy and they play movies in their bellies. And sometimes they just sing silly love songs.

But everybody needs a rock.


Anonymous said...

And how!!!
Baroque music, not unlike your Beatles, has an intense grounding effect on me. And at times, scents and textures bring my spirit back to a place of contentment when everything around me seems to be falling to pieces ( uh, like see: my life!).
Everybody needs a rock!!!

Club 166 said...

Help! After a Hard Day's Night when I felt like I was working Eight Days a Week, I went down The Long and Winding Road to my house on Penny Lane.

I looked for my wife Lovely Rita, then I Saw Her Standing There. "I'm So Tired", I said. "Lately I feel like I've been Back in the USSR".

We need a vacation, but I don't know if either one of us will be able to get a Ticket to Ride. "Baby, You Can Drive My Car", she said. "We can take a cruise on that Yellow Submarine." "No", I said. "I'd rather go to the Norwegian Wood, where I can spend some time being a Paperback Writer." ;)

Anonymous said...

And then there are those of us who work a long day, come home to a house full of sleeping loved ones, get a little lonely, click on the "MOM-NOS" button on the toolbar, find a new post, and then find we can go to sleep happy.


Anonymous said...

Every time I get to visit the ocean where I grew up, hubby shouts, "NO MORE ROCKS!" His joke refers to the bag of beach stones that always accompany us back home to NY.
They speak to me in dozens of ways.

They help me when I'm dysregulated, just as hearing "Golden Slumbers" -- or "Beautiful Boy" (my son's fave as a baby) or "Because (the World is Round), or about 30 other Beatles songs -- helps.

That Byrd Baylor was one of our all time favorites (I still have every single one of her books), or that I still love singing all kinds of silly love songs (including Palmer's!) and Let It Be, or that the title of the recording I'm actually working on now is "Touchstones," can't possibly suggest that mom- NOS has become one of my rocks
...or can it?

Christine said...

You know, this is just exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thanks for the perspective.

Steve said...

Thanks for the fresh perspective - the tubbies have exactly the same role in our son's life and of course the same effect on ours. Just when we think they've found their way permanently to the back of the closet, Po peeks his head out and says "We're back..."

For me, my "rock" is reading. Books, magazines, cereal boxes, sign posts - doesn't matter - just give me a few minutes with some words and I'm ok.

Cheri said...

That's what makes you different from Ms. Iverson. You are able to see things from Bud's point of view, which makes all the difference in the world when teaching a person with a disability. Your grasp of theory of mind will be what teaches Bud theory of mind.

Your quest to understand him and allow him to be the unique individual he is will facilitate his ability to navigate the scary world he lives in. Great job.

Maggie Rosethorn said...

Just had to laugh while I read your post and the comments...Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band just came onto my iPod (set to shuffle albums) so I'm getting my Beatles fix now.

Bea said...

I first heard "Calico Skies" when I was pregnant with Bub and the song always makes me think of him (and also of how false the line "I will hold you for as long as you like" turned out to be - more like "I will hold you for the bare minimum of time it takes for you to calm down and then do my best to set you down so I can have five minutes to go pee").

Bub has quite recently developed a strong attachment to a board book - it has to go everywhere with him, and if he awakens in the night and can't find it right away he screams out in a panic. I am a bit concerned, and I've been wondering whether I'm doing the right thing by just allowing him to keep the book with him at all times (should I be taking it away from time to time, getting him to practice being without it?). This post has reassured me. I love the line from the book, "Nobody is supposed to know what's special about another person's rock." What a profound sense of a child's entitlement to privacy and selfhood.

Anonymous said...

YES YES! i love this! i have whole stacks of actual rocks in my office, on the floor, lined up along the windows, in my pockets.

right now, fluffy has his camera. often he breaks out alien gromit and the gang. he always has space. he has a few rocks and i say, rock on to that.

all parents need to be willing to see from their child's perspective. why should autism moms be any different?

Maddy said...

the tubbies are gone for us, but other talismen are always fading in and out of their lives - at least you're not likely to lose a 12 inch tubbie!
Best wishes

kristina said...

Charlie's latest is an old friend---Goodnight Moon.

Me, well, I could not resist getting a new commuters' coffee cup this weekend----and a pound of some really good and strong stuff.

Anonymous said...

Tubbies are the world for my 2 year old PDD-NOS daughter Sam. She carries a 3 inch Tinky-Winky all the time. It is the first thing she has ever been attached to and I think it is wonderful she has finally found something to love.
I really love your blog. It is like looking into the future for me and it gives me hope.

LAA and Family said...

The Teletubbies have held a special place in my Samuel's heart, on and off, for many years as well. His "rocks" come and go, but I have noticed as Samuel has gotten older that there are more "rocks" and he doesn't hold onto them as long as he used to. Many times his behavior with these rocks more closely resemble what we call "purposeful play". It's okay if it doesn't though, they hold some kind of meaning for him and that's what is most important.

I think I can say my computer has been my rock the past month or so!

Anonymous said...

my son's rock is 'lumpy'. he has a small, 8" version, but carries around the bigger... 18"? version. carrying a stuffed purple heffalump around everywhere will get you attention.

i love it, though. he loves lumpy and snuggles him and kisses him,says 'lumpy, you're so soft' and does major pretend play with him.

Anonymous said...

Mom,nos, a fan of yours asked me to post this here. It's a study about the essence of special objects like blankets and stuffed animals (and rocks).

Anonymous said...

I bought Everybody Needs A Rock and it is wonderful. Thanks for mentioning it in your post. I plan to get more of Baylor's books. My son who loves "small things" and who is five, loves the book as well. He smiled the whole way through as if to say, "Hey someone else gets it!" Later he asked me if I had a rock. I do and I showed him my heart-shaped rock that sits on the shelf by my bed, too high for him to see usually. A great moment. Thanks,

Zoe said...

Okay, I just found your blog via Kirsten- I LOVE your title! I too am a mother of a son with PDD-NOS!! Hilarious pun!

unashamed said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm in my mid-twenties now (only nominally) and my latest 'rock' has been toys. Specifically a kind of block I played with eighteen years ago. I think I've figured out why I just had to buy them. My life has been so stressful lately.

LegoAni said...

Talk about signs!!!!
I was engrossed in reading all about Bud and Mom Nos (and Paul Mc), when I clicked on 'Everybody Needs a Rock.' I instantly though of the small Lego Aniken that my son, Sam carries with him almost everywhere he goes.
At the same time, the TV was on in the background and a familiar melody was playing during a commercial. The lyrics were not part of the commercial, but they were in my head.
'Somebody's knockin' at the door. Somebody's ringin' the bell.'
I have never commented to a blog before, but just this once, I thought I would 'let 'em in.'
Sam was diagnosed PDD-NOS about a year and a half ago.
Mom Nos, Thanks for taking your time to share and to let other NOS Moms know that we are never alone.