I would say that when he gets in our recliner and rocks and smiles that then he is content with how things are, but I really don't know. He simply can't tell us.
His most direct engagement with us is when he scripts something between single words and short phrases and wants us to repeat them back. Most of them even to us are cryptic at best. Sometimes he finds this hysterical. Sometimes it's part of his need for order. It is almost impossible to glean from the scripting how he feels. There seems to be little, if any, correlation.
He participates in things when he feels like it, which isn't often. He protests in some way much of the rest of the time. Sometimes a situation is so overwhelming that he completely panics. As he closes in on 11 years old, it seems like more and more that the world is not a place he feels that comfortable in. But at least in his routines and rituals, he has carved out a path in which the world makes more sense to him.
The change to get here has been gradual. I simply don't know what to make of it. He is changing more and more. But I have at least learned that this is neither good nor bad. It just is.
We can challenge him to break out of some routines and try new things without too much protest beyond screeching and stomping. But sometimes, he becomes so overwhelmed and scared that he goes into full-fledged panic. Awareness of safety is non-existent, and he is too big and strong to control and keep safe in certain situations. And most of the time, I have no idea what is going to happen.
We don't do this because there is anything wrong with routines and rituals. They can normalize life for him. We just don't want him to be so stuck in them that he can't do anything else.
I really just want him to be happy, to become the fullest expression of who he is and can be. I don't know if I'm helping him do that - at all.
There's nothing wrong with him. Let's get that part straight. Things just seem to be so hard for him.
The desktop background on my computer is the two boys playing on the living room floor, sort of half wrestling, both smiling. That feels like so long ago. Their interactions have changed. Our younger son tells us he feels like the big brother now. I don't know what all to make of that either.
I know the better question to ask is whether this really is how he wants to be and do and live in this world. Maybe it is. I truly don't know. It just seems to me like this isn't where he wants to be.
There is so much you and I cannot know about our kids. But whatever I can or cannot know, I at least know what I can keep doing.
I can keep loving him with all my heart.
I can do the best I can to help him be and become the person he wants to be, even if so much of that remains a mystery.
Then I can try to trust that this will get us there somehow.
It's not the clear answer we want, but it's a start.