Elvis and the Easter Bunny
We are all about Elvis in our house right now. Yes, Elvis. I don’t even remember how it started, but Blue Boy took an instant liking to Elvis and his music. What’s not to like…charismatic, animated guy that plays the guitar and dances. Grandma recently visited and brought a DVD of great performances. Beany jumped on the Elvis bandwagon when she saw him perform ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘All Shook Up’…she practically swoons every time we watch those – it is very sweet. Blue Boy has taken to saying “I am ‘Guitar Man’ and Beany is ‘All Shook Up'”. We are using this as an opportunity to teach about ‘favorites’ and to encourage him to express his likes and dislikes. I grin ear-to-ear every time he strums his ukulele and sings ‘Blue Suede Shoes’…I even got it on video.
I’m not sure there is anything about Elvis he does not like. We printed out some pictures of Elvis for a school project and made extras for him to look at. He loves to run around holding them, mooning over them, and handing them out like trading cards. He has posed in the mirror with a picture in one hand and a bowl of raisins in the other…beaming at himself with two of his favorite things. The pictures are sticky from time at the dinner table. He even pretended to feed crackers to Elvis.
One night he insisted on going to sleep with a picture of Elvis. After an hour or so of looking at the picture, talking to it, and singing songs with it he called me into his room and asked me to put it on his dresser. Somehow he was able to understand that it was too much stimulation and he needed some space. I was very proud of him for imposing limits on himself.
I had been listening from the living room, wondering if I needed to intervene. I get a lot of joy from watching his enthusiasm for Elvis. I love knowing what excites him, what makes him happy. I love to think of all the songs he doesn’t know about yet and wonder which ones he’ll like. I want to buy him a coffee table book full of beautiful pictures of Elvis. I’m presently resisting the urge to run out and buy him a red guitar so he really can be the Guitar Man, just like Elvis. I also worry. I worry because Blue Boy can get “stuck”. For about a month, we had to look out the front window every morning and discuss the street lights. There are the days at the zoo when he is only interested in the storm drains. There was last Saturday and literally dozens of high-fives with the Easter Bunny and the near-meltdown when we left the bunny for the egg hunt. In the vernacular of autism this is called perseveration.
per·sev·er·a·tion – noun \pər-ˌsev-ə-ˈrā-shən\: continual involuntary repetition of a mental act usually exhibited by speech or by some other form of overt behavior. For example, repeating a word or phrase, lining objects up for hours, or becoming fixated on a certain topic might be considered preservative behavior.
I’m not too worried about the Easter Bunny…bunny encounters will diminish after this coming weekend and will (likely) fade to memory. But what about Elvis? Is he an interest to be developed or is it perseveration? And if it is perseveration, so what! I think that as long as Elvis is not to the exclusion of all else, then bring it on. Of course, I am not immune to my own hypocrisy. Elvis admiration occurs in our home where only we see it. Easter Bunny encounters happen in public for all the world and friends and acquaintances to see. I wish I could have felt more like Beany apparently did. She wasn’t so sure about the bunny and was keeping her distance and watching Blue Boy with the biggest smile I have ever seen from her. She thought it was great and Blue Boy’s comfort and success with the bunny encouraged her to throw up a high-five of her own to the bunny. He helped her enjoy the bunny, he helped her to be successful. But I was also aware that he was stuck…he couldn’t leave the bunny or stop giving high fives. I tried to redirect, to distract, to get him away from the bunny. I told him other kids needed a turn, the bunny was getting tired, it was time to hunt eggs. Was I being a good parent or just self-conscious and embarrassed? A little of both?
I have clearly recognized my embarrassment at the zoo when the other kids are ooohhing and aaahhing over a jaguar and Blue Boy is running full tilt towards a storm drain screaming “It’s a really big drain!” I should be thankful for his language skills, thankful for his enthusiasm, thankful that there is something that interests him so intensely. I can recall kneeling next to him, staring together into the yucky water below the drain cover and feeling sad in a way I can’t articulate. I know the embarrassment and sadness are my problems, not his. There are adjustments that I need to make in my thinking. I need to stay in the moment with him. I wish I could see the world through his eyes. I try. After peering into the murky drain for a while, I looked up at him with a big smile and said “Let’s go find another one!”