I was really pleased to learn that Ryan's school's PTA was hosting a Family Night. An opportunity to meet local parents! A chance to see Ryan's classmates! An excuse to get out of the house on a Friday night!
The event was billed as a pizza and ice cream party, and it was just that: each family having pizza on its own picnic blanket, with kids running around a field. There was no easy way to start a conversation with these random strangers on their individual islands. I suppose it was easier for families with typical kids - you're naturally thrown together when your kids gravitate to each other and start playing.
But Ryan wasn't making any attempt to engage with other children, and nobody was approaching him, either. I tried introducing myself to the one mom I saw sitting by herself, but she just wasn't that into me.
Stu and I stood on the periphery, looking for Our People. All the elementary-age kids there seemed typical.
Then Stu said, "How about that eleven-year-old boy with the headphones that aren't plugged into anything?"
Yup, he's One Of Ours.
We gravitated toward his family. I tried to figure out the secret handshake, a way of saying "I know we have something in common, but I don't want you to feel like your kids stands out, even though he totally does, but hey, so does mine, so let's hang out."
Eventually, the boy's father started blowing bubbles for a gaggle of shrieking kindergartners. I saw my opportunity. I complimented him on becoming the most popular parent around. We made small talk about what suckers kids are for bubbles. He jokingly asked when the band was coming on to relieve him. We re-imagined this event with free babysitting and an open bar.
We didn't actually discuss the thing I knew we had in common, but I felt comfortable talking to him because he's one of Our People.
And when I had to excuse myself because it looked like Ryan was having a meltdown on top of the parachute the other kids were trying to duck under, I knew he'd understand.