July 3, 2015

I waited for Robert near the stairs. He had finished his swimming lesson ten- fifteen minutes before.  It was enough time, to take a shower, dry hair, and dress up.  It was the fourth time he went to men’s locker room by himself. I was  anxious.  After all I couldn’t pick in and check if everything was fine. But here he was, coming up the stairs. His hair half dry and rather disheveled. I tried to flatten them, but Robert avoided my touch. He does that from time to time.

As we walked through the hall, I noticed that he put his white T-shirt backwards as it was visible from under his striped shirt he wore over it.

“Robert, you put your white T-shirt backwards”, I said more to express my surprise than to suggest correction.  I was surprised as it was the first time ever that Robert put his shirt backwards.  My words alerted Robert to the fact that the unthinkable happened and he wanted to remedy that travesty then and there. In the middle of the hallway he attempted to take both his shirts off. “No, no, Robert, you cannot do that here.  you have to go to the restroom.” I kept persuading Robert.  Three times, maybe four.  I pulled him by the hand toward the door.  He followed me to the waiting room and again, in the middle of it, he tried to take his shirts again. “No, no Robert.  You need privacy.  You will change your shirts in the restroom”, I repeated the same phrases two or three times.  Robert reluctantly followed me to the restroom’s door.  He went in and two minutes later he came out, his shirts in order.

I am glad that this incident happened. Although it caused a few electrifying moments, it also gave Robert an opportunity to learn more about privacy and socially acceptable or not acceptable behaviors. He experienced a problem and found proper response to it.  Of course, I don’t know what I would do if he didn’t listen to me but instead change his shirts in the middle of the waiting room. Not a big deal, it seems. Moreover, the people in the waiting room were all watching their children in the pool beneath and were turned backwards to us. 

But it is NOT about possible partial nakedness.  It is about aiming at socially appropriate behaviors.  It is about listening to mother’s advice. And mostly, it is about tolerating the discomfort of knowing that he made a slight mistake for one long minute before correcting it.  I wonder how Robert processed all those difficult undercurrents.

I am not sure if I didn’t point to Robert his backward shirt knowing that it would cause exactly the reaction I witnessed. It is possible that I was curious how Robert would respond.  It is possible that I wanted to learn something about Robert and I wanted to teach him something, even if I didn’t know what those things were.


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