Several times a day since October, ever since the Halloween decorations went up, my two-year-old son Jules has asked my wife or me to draw him an “x-ray.” (That’s his word for skeleton.) When you draw for him, he hunches over so close to the drawing that you can’t even see your hand. You finish a drawing, then he turns the paper over to the blank side and says, “X-ray?” We’ve drawn hundreds of skeletons for him, over and over and over again. He flat-out refuses to attempt drawing one for himself. Sometimes we’ll be finishing dinner, and he’ll say, “X-ray?” and we’ll shout, “No! No more x-rays! We’re eating!” and he’ll throw a complete fit until one of us relents and draws the skeleton.
Then, yesterday — Christmas morning — totally out of the blue, I look over, and there’s Jules, with a piece of construction paper and his new Slick Stix from his stocking, drawing freaking x-rays like he’s been doing it his whole life:
I was so shocked I just sat there next to him for 15 minutes, watching him draw. And we’re not talking just a few x-rays, we’re talking dozens of x-rays. He’s drawn for hours since Christmas morning, as if seized by some kind of hypergraphia. X-rays, x-rays, x-rays. Here’s a picture of the whole stack of drawings he’s done so far:
What happened? What convinced him it was time? The construction paper and the markers have been there at his disposal for months. Was it that we had visitors in the house for Christmas? I can’t come up with any convincing external factor that might have caused him to finally pick up the marker. He just decided he was ready.
As is so often the case with parenting, you do the same Sisyphean, seemingly meaningless task over and over again, wondering when the heck it will add up to anything. And then, one day, often without warning or fanfare, the meaning arrives, and you still can’t believe it.