I gather my toddler into my arms and ease into the rocker for our pre-nap snuggles, the favorite part of my day. Henry curls into me as I begin to rock and hum.
A mere moment passes before he sits up and declares, in his sweet baby voice, “Close!”
“What is it, honey? You want me to close the door?”
“The door, baby? You want Mommy to close the door?”
I don’t know what else to do, so I get up, close the nursery door, and return to our position in the rocker. Clearly frustrated, Henry slides out of my lap, shuffles across the room, and opens the door. I follow him in amusement as he makes his way to my bedroom.
The industrious and determined little fellow throws open a drawer in my dresser and moves shirts around until he finds what he is looking for. He pulls out a soft, fuchsia tee I often wear to exercise and shoves it at me.
“You want me to wear this?”
He wasn’t saying “close.” It was “clothes.”
I change my shirt, not out of obedience to my toddler but sheer curiosity. He marches back to his room and resumes his place in my lap, quickly falling asleep on my now acceptable shoulder.
This is my first memory of a sign Henry had sensory processing problems, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. Instead, it was one more story of Henry’s amusing independence and strong will. “He knows what he wants!” we explained with a chuckle.
Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, which often accompanies Autism Spectrum Disorder, can have unique clothing needs. Some wear their socks inside out to avoid feeling the “bumps” (seams) across their toes. Others can’t tolerate the feel of buttons or zippers. Tags are an almost universal nuisance.
Henry needs soft.
He began protesting against jeans around age 4, but I paid it little attention. Over the next three years, the protesting increased exponentially. In kindergarten he wore jeans a handful of times when I fought him over it. This year he hasn’t worn them once. My first grader doesn’t wear jeans.
On Sundays he wears chinos he has approved for softness. Monday through Saturday he wears “soft pants.” You might know these as track pants, sweatpants, or athletic pants. In other words, the young Meredith who would not have been caught dead in sweatpants at school is now raising a child who wears nothing else. God is super funny like that.
When the weather began to cool last fall, I asked myself some serious questions:
Why do I want him to wear jeans? (Because I like them. They’re cuter. Polo shirts look dumb with sweatpants.)
Is this a good reason? (No.)
Does he need to wear jeans? (No.)
Will not wearing jeans have an adverse affect on his education or social life? (No.)
When I came face to face with the fact that my personal taste was the only reason for Henry to wear jeans, the decision was made. You know what they say about picking battles? I wasn’t picking this one. Not anymore. My first-grader doesn’t wear jeans, and that’s ok with me.