I look out the window and see a black car pull into the driveway. Getting up, I walk to the front door and open it to welcome my son home from school. His driver opens the back door and two dark green wellies climb out of the car. His trousers are tucked inside protecting the ends from the dirt of the ground.
Rhys runs up to me, a smile spanned across his face, and I take his backpack in my hands.
“Thank you” I nod and smile as Rhys’ drive leaves for the day.
Rhys has entered the house and is struggling with his wellies, so I bend down and pull each one off his foot in the classic heave-ho technique and then help him with his coat.
Looking down at my son, his school jumper is splattered with a combination of yellow and black colour, and his black trousers have mud across the knees and up the sides. On his forehead there is a matching smear of yellow. I can only assume is paint?
Looking in the little plastic bag, that came home with his backpack, I find his school shoes and a pair of socks. They are caked with mud, while his wellies sit in prestige condition on the side from their recent foot removal.
I smile at Rhys, and his big blue eyes look back at me. “Good day?” I ask.
“Unizumi?” he responds, a request for his tv show – I get no verbal update on his activities.
I have known parents to moan and complain about the state of their kids when they return from school. The stained jumpers and battered shoes. How their kids should be presentable and overalls should be worn for messy play. Complaints to teachers about the cost of uniforms and disregard for the effort parents have to go through with cleaning.
But they view a messy child different to me. I view Rhys’ state of dress as a story. A communication of what he got up to today.
I don’t want a teacher to clean him up and wipe away the activities he got involved in or cover up the evidence, so I don’t get to experience it. I also don’t want Rhys to not get involved because he would wear an overall – because he wont. I ask my son every day if he had a good day – and I get no response. But I keep asking.
Maybe one day he will tell me, but at the moment he can’t. Rhys is autistic and although he is verbal, he cannot hold a conversation about his day. He cannot tell me what he did or what he got up to. I do get an update daily from his teacher, but a visual like today is a great addition to that story.
It has also taken many years of hard work and engagement to get Rhys involved in activities. To get him painting, or sticking or holding a pencil. Activities that every other child did naturally and was biting at the bit to do the second they could sit up. None of these things came naturally to my son.
When Rhys stands in front of me coated in paint with his shoes caked in mud, I know he took part. He did messy play, painting, and running outside. Maybe he didn’t want to get his wellies dirty, and stayed in his shoes. But he did it!
My son is joining in and the smile he brought home shows me he enjoyed it. I dont need a phone call to tell me he got involved, his shoes and jumper have communicated plenty for me today.
Communication comes in many ways and it is not always verbal. Today Rhys will need to wear his trainers to school while his schools shoes get a scrubbing. And next week his jumper may still have some yellow marks that the vanish spray could not tackle! But he will be back in today, and that is what matters. He will be back in school taking part and developing, just like every other child his age.
Keep bringing home those visual stories, Rhys. Wonder what state you will be in today!