It’s dark outside. Every toy that had been put away is out again. There is a cup of apple juice on the floor. Two books open next to the bean bag chair. There is no chance that sleep will come soon. Too much chatter about the boulders.
We have been through so many obsessions. There were the planets, the marbles, the Thomas trains, the Hot Wheels, the Road Rippers, and now we are back to the boulders. Boulders have staged a huge comeback and have now come to life. It almost appears to be seasonal. The boulders come with the warmer weather of spring.
Our home is in the foothills of the Sierra. We have pine trees and several large boulders in the front and back of the house. My son does not mention them or even to notice them most days. However, from the conversations that have been occurring in our house, it is quite evident that while house boulders are boring, boulders off our property are -forgive the pun- rock stars.
Each day on our way to and from the office and school, we pass a small town. Just off the freeway exit for this town is a gas station. Oddly, the strip mall around the gas station is chock full of huge boulders.
We often stopped at this gas station between here and there to fill up. The price of gas is bad enough. At this particular station, it was slightly cheaper than other places and somehow became a favorite of ours long before the child came out and informed us of his fixation.
Each boulder in the strip mall has been given a name. The star of the pack is called “Trigantic” (rhymes with “gigantic”). Trigantic has a black spot that looks somewhat like a mitten so often it will be associated with a hand or a mitten. Hands, mitten and Trigantic are all spoken of together in a bunch of jumbled chatter. Repeatedly. Over and over. Until he goes to sleep. And my kid loves to chatter (have no idea where he got that trait).
Next is a boulder which is located behind a large wooden sign. When my son was younger and I was trying desperately to impart some What to Expect the Toddler Years into his very nonconformist nature, I would try to play peek-a-boo with him. As we passed this boulder one time, I remarked that the boulder was hiding behind the sign. My son, who never forgets, dubbed this the “peek-a-boo” boulder. Lately, he has referred to it only by asking, “Can you see it? Who’s hiding?” as we pass. The boulder, is, in fact, a very poor hider since it is quite easy to see once we drive past the sign. I blame myself for this one.
Next, let me just say, despite the ideas that ASD children do not have an imagination, my ASD child clearly has something of the nature. I have to try very hard to see what he sees in the next two boulders in the “family”. First, there is the ice cream boulder because he believed it to be shaped like an ice cream cone. Can you see it?
Next is the “whale” boulder. When my son says it, it sounds like “wheel”. I finally got it when he started asking me about what comes out of the top – the blowhole of the whale.
Finally, on the way out, there are the “multiples”, a name he derived from his former nanny. Last year, he asked me to take pictures of his boulders. Then he asked me to print them. I printed them on 8.5 x 11 inch paper and gave them to him in his book bag, which was full of books about rocks and crystals. He would proudly display the pictures to his nanny who remarked one day how there were so many in the photo there were multiples. Thus, he dubbed this grouping the “multiples.”
Foolishly, I knew that, near our home, was a group was a huge hillside of boulders lining the roadway as a retaining wall. I told him there was a boulder mountain nearby and asked him if he wanted to see it. Boulder mountain then became a daily request last year. As a reward for a good day or good behavior, he got to ride past “Boulder Mountain”. Of course, photos again were necessary. And the requests have now resurfaced.
All these boulders were named and photographed extensively. We were their groupies and Paparazzi. My son loved the boulders and read his Rocks and Crystal books every day. The infatuation finally extinguished itself last year when he moved on to his next obsession – construction vehicles.
This time around, the boulders have been brought to life. “Trigantic” is now prone to thirst. Apparently, only my son knows what will quench this parched rock and must ask, repeatedly, what Trigantic would like to drink. He will ask anyone. His ABA, occupational and speech therapists, me, dad, Jessica, Billy, friends of the family and strangers. Yesterday, he was busy trying to determine whether Trigantic would rather drink water, cherry juice or apple juice. Funny. Those are all the same things my son drinks.
The peek-a-boo boulder apparently has mobility and some thoughts about where it is “hiding”. My son plays with this boulder by smiling and asking “Can you see it?” “Where is he hiding?” “There he is!” and pointing and laughing.
Finally, the “whale” boulder has been spewing water from his blowhole. It has also become fashionable to greet the whale boulder shyly and excitedly, as though it was a major film star.
Finally, as we drive away, there is a grouping of boulders on the side of the freeway entrance, just outside the gas station. My son has dubbed these boulders the “baby” boulders. They apparently cry, are sad and need milk.
This completes the family.
What’s an ASD mom to do? Find the way to teach the geology within the fixation. Try to move past it? Let him continue to anthropomorphize them? Let it extinguish itself? So far, I’ve just encouraged the behavior, using the rock books to teach him differences in types of rocks and crystals.
But the humanizing? It is imagination. Strange imagination yes. It’s not dolls or GI Joes – it’s not even small manipulative rocks. It’s a boulder. No eyes, nose or mouth. There are no boulder clothes at Toys R Us. There is no boulder car or truck for them to ride it.
But there lies the beauty of this obsession. It’s free! Except for the books and print costs for the photos, I don’t have to buy a game, an accessory, a lunchbox, stickers or anything else! I can pick up a rock in the yard and he’s happy! My husband loves this obsession for that very reason. So, I’m thinking before I have to buy another $25 wooden train, I’ll encourage this boulder family a little longer…