Finding out that your child is in the bottom 1% developmentally is a tough pill to swallow, but now you have a starting line. After two years of early intervention preschool, then kindergarten, first grade, and second, my son had climbed that percentage ladder. In fact, he did so well academically that he became fully integrated. Well, sort of.
On paper he was integrated. Socially he was still in the mobiles tucked behind the rest of the school. (That, by the way, is another issue entirely.) My son was never drawn to peers. He didn’t request play dates. Every attempt to socialize him ended poorly. We had him in an autism social group. There was an adult to guide the play, and a group of kids to humor her. But the playground at school has no such guide. The NT kids have been building relationships for years, and my kid has only just now started to give a crap about any of that.
It was clear that, among his peers, mine was not the cool kid. He was, at best, the tolerated kid. At worst, well… phone calls came. He didn’t understand the rules. He had a hair-trigger. All of his social knowledge came from cartoons. (I never noticed before, but characters banter a lot. This does translate well on the playground.)
I always told myself that it would be okay. His dad and I would play with him. I prided myself on the fact that my son was not embarrassed to kiss me goodbye at school. He still held my hand on the way to the car when I picked him up. Until one day…
I waited for him at the usual spot.
“Hi, Bud. How was your day?” I asked, grabbing his hand.
“The kids still won’t pass me the ball at recess. I got mad. Why is playing with kids so hard?”
Just then, a group of kids from his class started up the walkway.
I dropped my son’s hand. It was the worst feeling. It was just a reaction… a strange protective reaction. My child would have held my hand all day long, but the children would mock him. They would tease. No matter what, this would happen. I should raise him not to care what they thought, but… I just didn’t want them to have any more ammunition. Was it the right thing to do? I don’t know. Just another thing that I will fight with myself about.
We walked around the corner and I stopped. I hugged him tight.
“You know I love you, right?”
“Duh, Mommy.” He replied.
“That’s rude. What is a better thing to say?”
“I know, Mommy. I love you back.”
I always knew that someday, we wouldn’t hold hands. I just never expected that I would be the first to let go.