That's been one of the additional challenges of his having cerebral palsy, distinguishing between the traits that have come with the disability (and may retreat over time) and the traits that are his personality (and are likely to stay for life). It's a bit of a nonsense exercise on my part, but I suppose it's part of every parents interests to try and peer into those little eyes and try to divine the person that you're just beginning to understand.
One thing I think I can say with some certainty, is that my boy seems to know what he wants and when he wants it.
"I'm sleepy - story time," is something I've heard now a few times as my son has begun to understand himself when he's getting tired. After a little time reading, and of listening to him tell his little jokes to himself while he giggles, he's usually sound asleep. It's wonderful.
On the other end of the night, he's equally clear, but it's not so wonderful.
"It's still dark - go back to bed," I say most mornings with my head still buried under a pillow while my son tugs at my arm in the pre-dawn dark. The little guy knows what side of the bed I sleep on, and for whatever reason, has decided that I'm the easier target in the early AM.
"No - it's the day time," he says, lack of evidence non-withstanding, "I'm hungry."
"It's bed time until the daylight comes," I've been trying to convince him with very little luck.
Some days I win this argument, and the boy will go back to his bed for another 30 or 45 minutes until the first weak light of morning is apparent. But more often than not, he'll escalate his position with tears or angry shouts and I'll get out of bed with a grumble.
"Yogurt please," he says after getting me down the stairs and into the cold kitchen, "Blueberry then Vanilla."
I'll set him up with a spoon and a cup of yogurt and watch him go at it for a bit. He's still not very good at getting his left arm into the act, so he's doing most of the work with his right, but he's gotten fairly effective at spooning out at least the top half of the yogurt before asking for assistance.
Then I try to work in some of the things our orthopedic surgeon has asked us to do to keep his left arm from growing stiff or losing resiliency. I'll massage his left arm and stretch it and try to help him grasp the cup with that hand while he digs away with the right.
"Loosen it up man," I say as I wiggle his affected arm and rub it up and down. He usually obliges me with a giggle or two while I help him angle the cup for better digging.
It's by now that I'm thinking that it's not so bad getting up with the little guy. It gives us time together to get to know each other; time for me to understand who my son is and time for me to understand how to help him in the day to day with his disability.
Sometimes, especially when it's still dim light leaking into the kitchen and the world just beginning to wake up, I feel like the proverbial father bird out with his little bird pecking for breakfast.
"You're an early bird," I'll tease him sometimes.
"Daddy!" he laughs, "I'm not a bird. I'm a boy."
"Yes," I think while I laugh with him, "You're my boy."