Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hi Raul!

The second Ryan and I arrived at the playground yesterday, he walked right up to a boy around his own age and, excitedly, said "Hi Raul!" I've never met Raul, but Ryan often refers to Raul and Mariah as his friends on the school bus.

The boy kind of stared through Ryan and kept playing. I introduced myself to his mom, who was juggling two younger children. She asked me if Ryan had autism; I agreed that he did. She said she is a nurse and works with people with special needs. I started to ask what class Raul was in, but at that moment she had to chase a two-year-old.

Ryan asked Raul if he wanted to go on the tire swing with him; the boy shook his head and kept pumping his own swing.

When Raul's family was heading for the parking lot, Ryan launched into a "No, don't go!" The mom said she could give the kids five more minutes. I said, "They're not even playing together." She smiled and said, "But in his head, they are."

She totally gets it.

The boys ran off playing tag, and then hide and seek. Really playing, really enjoying each other's company.

I chatted for a while with the mom, and started asking about Raul.

"Brian," she said.


It turns out, this boy was not Ryan's bus-mate Raul at all.

His name is Brian.

He goes to a different school.

They had never met before.

"Well, you made a new friend!" the mom said.

I kind of love not-Raul's mom.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Too honest, to my face

"Miss Meredith? Why does Ryan act weird sometimes?"

My friend's daughter, "Rachel," is a year younger than Ryan, but developmentally she's like a decade ahead of him. At 8 years old she loves reading Harry Potter to herself and has already perfected her eye-roll.

We were finishing up lunch on my deck. Ryan was sitting at the table reading a graphic novel out loud to himself - loudly and enthusiastically enough that he probably didn't notice our conversation.

I launched into a version of my standard Explaining Autism to a Kid speech. We've had this conversation before; this one started very much like previous versions did.

And then, Rachel got a little too honest:

"Cuz I don't really like him. Like, I don't hate him or anything, but..."

This was the first time Rachel had expressed anything but fondness for Ryan. My friend and I make her and her sister and Ryan spend quite a bit of time together, and they have almost always appeared to enjoy playing with each other. I'm told they often ask if Ryan can come over and play, and Ryan certainly gets excited when he knows they're going to have a play date.

My friend shifted into one of those teaching-moment conversations that results in Time Out and a sulky apology. I excused myself to sob uncontrollably.

Monday morning, my heart still hurts.

Rachel said it out loud, but I can only assume lots of Ryan's peers think it to themselves: he's weird. He's hard to play with. We don't hate him or anything, but we don't really like hanging out with him.

All the therapies and in-school supports in the world aren't going to turn him into a typical kid - one that his peers can readily play with without putting in a bit of extra work; one who will reciprocate in an expected and predictable way.

And some day, someone is going to say that to his face, or in his presence when he's not wrapped up in reading. And he's going to be crushed.

And he's desperately going to want that kid to like him, but he's not going to know how.

And he's going to doubt his own self-worth and kick himself and wish he were typical and hate that he's not.

Because all he wants is to play with other kids, even though he's really bad at it.

All he wants is to find someone to play hopscotch with him in the driveway. And all he can think to do is run down the street ringing doorbells, not waiting for anyone to answer.

And someday a kid who Ryan considers his friend is going to tell him to his face that his efforts aren't good enough. That he isn't good enough.

And he's going to believe it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What I want for Mother's Day

For Mother's Day, leave me the fuck alone.

I don't want to hear your sound effects. The oinking. The chirping. The semi-Yiddish throat-clearing sound. Just shut up for a while.

And the whining - cut that crap out.

Don't make me brace myself for impact as you throw yourself at me at full speed while holding scissors or a rake.

For fuck's sake, don't freak out because you can't accurately replicate in real life whatever SpongeBob did in a cartoon.

And don't wake me up by busting through my bedroom door shrieking that you "can not find" a video on the iPad.* I have clearly explained numerous times that our first-generation iPad is so obsolete it no longer supports YouTube. Get over it.

If you love me, just let me disappear for a couple of hours. I promise I'll be a much nicer mommy when I come back.

* This actually happened Mother's Day morning.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friendship: Gateway to a Life of Crime

A few weeks ago, two little girls rang our doorbell and asked if Ryan could come out and play.

At the time, I thought this was the greatest day of our lives. Now I realize that was the day Ryan stepped out on his journey to a life of crime.

Ryan and I had been taking a walk, when two young sisters rode past us on scooters. Ryan took off chasing them, desperate to play with them. Sadly, he couldn't run as fast as they could scoot, and he got frustrated to the point of tears. The girls were very sweet and tried to include him by rolling slowly along side us as we walked home. We dropped them off at their house, six houses down from us.

Ryan spent the next few hours sulking. He had really wanted to play with those kids, but he just couldn't work out the logistics of two kids on scooters and one kid without wheels.

Late that afternoon, our doorbell rang. The girls from down the street asked if Ryan could come out and play.

Yes, please!

Ryan has a scooter, but he hasn't yet developed the coordination to ride it properly, so we opted for skates. The girls didn't want to stand around while Ryan geared up, so they told us they would meet us at the park. Ryan and I skated to the park, the kids played one or two painfully awkward rounds of hide and seek, and then the girls had to go home.

I was thrilled that Ryan had finally found some neighbors willing to play with him, and he was clearly happy to have someone other than me to hang out with.

The next week, Ryan really wanted someone to play hopscotch with him (technically he said he wanted someone to watch him play hopscotch) in our driveway, and he was emphatic that that "someone" could not be me. I suggested he go ask the girls from six houses down. He thought this was an excellent suggestion, but made it clear that this would be a solo mission: I was to stay home and not follow him to their house. I told him to go ring their bell, and then to come right back.

About 20 minutes later, Ryan came home with a lady who lives waaaaay down the street. It seems the girls had not been home, so he had taken it upon  himself to ring every doorbell for the next 1/3 of a mile or so.

Every. Doorbell.

He didn't wait around to see if folks were home. He didn't consider whether he knew the people who lived in a particular house or whether or not they had kids. He just rang and ran.

I explained that we can't do this.

Yesterday, again wanting someone to play with, Ryan announced he wanted to see if our next-door neighbors were home. I stopped him and said "What are you going to say when you ring the bell?" He scowled at me and barked, "I'll talk to you later, Mommy," and he marched next door.

After several minutes, I went over there to look for him, and to make sure he wasn't ringing everyone else's doorbell. We found him in the neighbors' back yard.

"I could not find them in their house!" he complained.

"Wait," Stu asked, perplexed by this phrasing "did you go inside their house?"

"Yes of course I do."

No. No no no, we explained, horrified: you can not go into someone's house when they're not there. This is illegal. You can get arrested and go to jail.

"I want to wait for them to come home," he said, heading for their house.

We told him, in no uncertain terms, that he could wait on our lawn, but not on their lawn.

"Can I wait at their house?" he persisted.

"No," I said, "That would make you a stalker."

"Can I be a stalker?" he asked, hopefully.


"Pleeeease???" he begged.

So now Stalking is on the ever-growing list of Things We May Not Do.

The moral of this story: Don't let your kid play with the neighbors. Not even once.