Kids are jerks. Ok, not all of the time, but a lot of the time. That’s fine. They are figuring out how to be grown ups. Eventually, most kids figure out that being a jerk isn’t really going to yield great results. The kid who don’t figure it out, well, I can only assume that they end up as internet trolls or as presidential candidate frontrunners. To avoid that, we socialize our kids. This is easier said than done when you have a kiddo on the spectrum.
The “experts” told me to put my boy into social situations. The main problem with this was that my son didn’t speak very well, (depending on your definition,) until he was around four. By then, his peers had been working on building friendships, taking turns, and working through some of their jerkishness. Oh, and they actually wanted to hang out together. That helps.
My boy had no problem charming adults, but then I would push him towards kids. The kids would discover that he was different rather quickly, pick on him for awhile, then we would leave. My son would say, “Why were my friends screaming in my face?” So, at the very next outing, my son would go up to a kid and scream in his face. Experience had shown him that is what kids do. It isn’t an excuse for his behavior, but it is fact. All of these social outing were turning my kid into the jerk because he lacked to social awareness to see that his bad behavior was not, in fact, helping him hold onto playmates. At age eight, he finally wants playmates, but do they want him?
Don’t get me wrong, some kids are sweet, but even they lose interest in him when he is slow to pick up a game. Frankly, I had become jaded over the years. I felt like my choices were, watch my kid be abused and mimic terrible behavior, or protect him like a special snowflake until he is thirty-five and living in my basement collecting vintage Furbies. I know that last one is going to be a problem, because I don’t have a basement and Furbies creep me out. The only thing that we can do is keep trying.
Lately, his heart has belonged to baseball. His mouth, however, has belonged to the potty. Part of trying for us was getting the kiddo into little league. Sometimes “trying” is the right word for it. Let me say as gently as possible that there have been growing pains. We manage our expectations. We remember that this is a large chunk of time spent in a dugout with neurotypical peers. He will fail sometimes… a lot of times. I have to pull him aside because of his… um… spirited chatter. Not wanting the other players good time to be spoiled by negative outbursts, I occasionally have to pull him aside for a break.
Well, yesterday I really watched him try. He began to cheer hard for his teammates while he sat on the bench. (He had done this before he realized people kept score.) That is when another boy looked at him and said, “That is how you become a nice guy! I love that!” He hugged my son. My son beamed.
When things go badly so many times, it is so easy to feel jaded. It is easy to assume that everything will goes sideways, because it always has. Shielding a child from hurt is at the center of a parent’s heart. In doing so, I fear much more. I am terrified of shielding him from joy.
So, today I won’t be jaded. Sometimes the coaches are patient. Sometimes the kids are forgiving. Sometimes the other parents are understanding. However, if you hear an F-bomb dropped from right field, you can still find me under the bleachers wishing that the snack bar had a liquor license.
*photo by Pixaby