I am down with my son eating what he wants. When he wants.
I am down with him not bathing much.
I am down with him not cutting or washing his hair.
I am down with him sleeping wherever he likes. When he likes.
But I am not yet down with him wearing winter clothes in summer. Or summer clothes in winter.
It’s a final frontier.
For almost 20 years I have fretted over my children’s temperature. I don’t mean the actual degree of their temperature, but whether they are too cold or too hot for the current climatic conditions. To this day, my lungs react with a sharp little gasp if I see my almost 20 year old with bare skin in winter. This is the same child that I got up in the night to well past her 8th birthday, to check that she had the covers on her. Or off her if it was summer.
I myself detest being too hot or too cold. Which I do seem to be a lot of the time. I function best in the confines of a very specific climate. Being too hot feels like being inside an old soda bottle that’s been left in the car on a hot day. Being too cold makes every bit of me contract, and hold it there. For as long as I’m cold. Which is about 3 months of the year.
Maybe there’s a planet out there that would be just right for me. It isn’t this one though.
My autistic 5 year old has a whole other universe of temperature experience going on. It ends up with me having a loop of ‘he must be too hot’/’he must be too cold’ on continuous play in my brain. Sometimes, it breaks for long enough to be replaced by the voice of reason, which interjects ‘he knows how he feels leave him alone’. But it always returns to the original message.
I know he’s unlikely to cause himself any medical damage by being cold or hot. I know because I asked his pediatrician. To date, there’s been no evidence of harm. He just looks sweaty or cold. To me. When I ask him if he’s too hot/too cold, he tells me he isn’t. Actually, he shouts ‘I’m NEVER too hot or to cold’, most likely because he’s well sick of me asking. I know that he has the right to make decisions about his body and left to figure out what he needs, he’ll make adjustments if he wants to.
I’ve been tempted to try a bribe and I’ve tried hard to justify it by inventing some urgent need why he MUST change to climate ‘appropriate’ clothing. But I haven’t convinced myself of any real reason yet.
I’ve done some persuasive speeches, about the science of keeping our bodies in a comfortable temperature zone. But really, the science shows that outside of serious overheating or cooling, the body will likely make the adjustments it needs.
I’ve accepted that this is not a life or death situation. That no one is at risk of harm here.
The internal discomfort remains. The de-schooling continues. The urge to step in and control something about my child that doesn’t need controlling is a strong one.
This frontier will fall. Like those before it. And my son will know that we trust that he knows what his body needs.