I was flipping through the photo stream on my iPhone recently when I found a screen capture of a text message exchange that I had forgotten all about.
It was a few a weeks ago, in the week after Hurricane Sandy rolled through New Jersey. Our kids were out of school the entire week and like most New York City commuters, there was virtually no way for me to get to my office once it reopened, so I was home all week as well. Our corner of town was one of the few where the power remained on, so it became a gathering spot for those who hadn’t been as lucky. Our next-door neighbors and good friends in particular opened their home for people to shower, do laundry, cook, hang out, and have their kids sleep over where there was power and heat.
Many evenings that week we ended up spending time next door as well, enjoying the impromptu pot-luck dinners and perhaps and adult beverage or
two five while all the kids played together. Riley was thrilled to join the pack of girls, including our neighbor’s twin daughters, for hide-and-seek, flashlight tag, and movie watching. Ryan came and went but usually wanted to go home after an hour or so, having had enough of the female-dominated group of kids.
On this night, neither Veronica nor I wanted to go home when Ryan told us he was ready. We don’t make a habit of leaving him home alone but made and exception this time. Our houses are practically touching each other and he could come get us if he needed anything. It really wasn’t much different than leaving him by himself in a different room of the house.
But because it was nearing bed time, I set up iMessage on Ryan’s iPad and told him he could text me if he needed anything. We practiced a few simple greetings just to make sure he knew how to use the app. With that, I went back next door.
Despite being very comfortable with technology, Ryan has never expressed a desire for a phone even though many of his peers now carry them. Riley has one even though she’s younger — because she cared to have one. Ryan has little use for talking on the phone, even though his conversational skills there have improved, and when he got an iPad for his birthday he had no desire to use it to message and FaceTime Riley or his cousins that all have iPod Touches. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Ryan is comfortable with technology. He struggles with social interaction.
Getting back to the night in question, I set my phone on the counter to keep an eye out for any messages from Ryan. Sure enough, within a half-hour he sent me one. We had forgotten to give him his favorite dessert — vanilla ice cream — but he wasn’t going to let us off the hook. And so, the first-ever text I received from my son read as follows, which is exactly the way he would have voiced it:
May you come home and please give me ice cream?
Who could say no to such a pleasantly stated request?
Certainly not me. One of us ran back home to fix him a cone. After leaving him with his ice cream, another text arrived a few minutes later:
I’m ready for bed
A few minutes later we returned home to find him in pajamas, with teeth brushed, preparing his room for bed. He was soon asleep.
It wasn’t a landmark development, just a tiny stepping stone on the way to figuring out how to get his needs met in a sphere where he’s typically uncomfortable. I’m glad I took the screen capture. I wanted to preserve the moment, and to also cherish his unique prose. Riley mastered all manner of LOL speak and emoticons the moment she had a device with which she could send a text. Her messages practically require translation. Not Ryan. Texting would be an extension of his exact speech. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer it that way.