I've known for a while that- as smart as M is, and as intuitive as he is with things like words and language- there are some obvious understandings that he doesn't pick up on naturally.
Thankfully, he catches on quickly enough once we can determine what the missing link is and fill him in. The only problem is, the missing link is sometimes something so obvious and self-evident that I can't see it, even when it's staring us in the face.
Take yesterday for example. M has always had trouble controlling impulses and has often gotten into trouble at school (and at home) for foolish, impulsive actions.
So, for the last few months, we've talked a lot about forethought. Frustratingly, it seemed like the idea that you can think about an action before you do it and avoid the ones that will lead to negative consequences just wouldn't sink in.
After the fact, he could always explain why the choice was a poor choice. Beforehand (like when role playing) he could easily model the right choice. But in the moment of truth, he just couldn't seem to resist the urge.
We have been praying for self control for him, talking often about better choices, and keeping our eyes open for chances to praise him for good behavior.
That brings us to last night, when after a particularly great day at school, he was being comically good all evening. He was obviously going out of his way to please everyone: being grandly generous with his brother, helpful to me, agreeable with Whim. We just kept heaping on the praise about how nice it was when he was X, and how much we loved it when he did Y, and how now that he can Z, he's going to have so much fun at school.
Finally, he couldn't take it another minute. His face changed and, ashen, he told me he had to confess something. "I didn't really want to do those things. I was just doing it to be praised. I'm sorry."
That was his missing link. He didn't realize that he was free to act differently from how he felt compelled. He thought it was "cheating" to do something you didn't want to (or not do something that you did want to do), just to be praised or just to avoid trouble.
Even though it sounds ridiculous -how could anyone not realize that, it's as natural as breathing- it makes sense when you think about honest he has always been.
He knew it was wrong to bother classmates, for instance. But since he didn't know how to stop wanting to bother them, he went ahead and did it. Somehow he didn't realize that he could just not. He thought that in order to stop getting into trouble, he had to change his will. He didn't realize that suppressing an urge -even if you still really wanted to do it- "counted" as being good.
Oh, my boy. Your mind is so weird and wonderful. I am so lucky to be the one who gets to figure out all of your quirks.