Waiting

(This post was written in April, but I haven’t published it until now.)

Here I sit, waiting.

The Boy and I are at an amusement park on a two-day band trip. And he is waiting in line by himself, to ride a rollercoaster by himself. And I wait, hoping he understands any directions given to him, and isn’t taken advantage of by others in line. But when I offered to go with him, he declined. He’s a teenager.

No one in the band offered to include The Boy in their group today. No teacher made the effort to ensure he was included, so he just wasn’t. He has to pal around with his mom all day, wondering what the other kids are up to. Not that he really minds, but this isn’t inclusion. This is separate but equal.

I can’t make other kids include him. And when I suggested a peer mentoring group to the school administrators, I was ignored.

So, I wait. And I hope that someday, a peer will take the initiative to befriend my son as s/he would any other person, and include him. Until that day, we make do with what we have, each other. Allowed to come along, but not really a part of the whole.

*ps* He enjoyed the ride and even went on a different ride by himself later.

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You Need a Village

Yesterday was a classic Monday.  One little change to our routine made me about five minutes behind, which ended up with our leaving The Boy’s lunch on the counter, and my breakfast behind. The night before, we had also realized that we had left his swim trunks and rash guard at Grammy’s the previous Friday, which meant she had to throw them in the dryer so he could change into them when he arrived to her house.

Needless to say, Grammy made sure he had dry swim clothes and a full lunch for camp on Monday. Without her help, we would have encountered major interruption to the day, and in all probability, a meltdown to go with it (maybe two, if mine count).

While I don’t have a ton of friends down here to rely on, I do have my parents, and we need them. Everyone needs a village. When we lived up north, I relied on friends and The Boy’s tribe. There are times when you can’t do it all, when things fall through the cracks, and when you just need a damned break.

It’s a difficult thing to find and build your village, but it’s very necessary. I just don’t know how I could do it without some kind of support (besides my wonderful husband – sometimes even the two of us need additional hands!). And I don’t pretend it’s easy. The very nature of a special needs household may preclude being social with other families on any kind of a regular basis. But there is always a way. Don’t forget that I found Fantastic Babysitter (who is now one of our dearest family friends, and was/is a huge part of The Boy’s tribe) on Craigslist…

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Has this Happened to You?

You are at some school or other kid-related function, and a parent begins talking to you as if they know you. She or he prattles on about their child by first name, and your child by first name. But you’ve never met them before in your life.

IMG_4054-0I suspect this is common for those of us with kiddos on the spectrum, at least those of us whose kiddos are not-exactly-verbal. In my experience, The Boy becomes a kid at school that everyone knows, or at least knows of, but because we have limited social interaction with the same students outside of school, I know none of these kids. It is also due to the fact that The Boy is fairly nonverbal about anything that happens at school.  This is why I try to go on at least one field trip per year, so I can put names with faces.

The latest occurrence happened at an Autism Society Friend and Fun event, and I met a mom and her daughter, a girl who is a year behind The Boy in school. He’s gone to school with her for two years, so her mom assumed I knew her daughter, or at least knew her, but I had never heard her name mentioned before, and had never seen her before.

I’m clearly at a disadvantage when this happens, and never quite sure how to respond without seeming rude, and I really should come up with something to say. I would love to know more of these kids and their parents. It would be great for both of us to make more connections, but it’s almost as if he is a celebrity and lives a double life.

Apparently, what happens at school stays at school, and the first rule of school? Never talk about school. 😉

Up and Running

If you’ve followed the blog, you know that we are building a house primarily so that The Boy can attend high school with the friends he’s made in middle school. Since his program was dissolved, he would have to attend a high school with strangers if we did nothing. Coincidentally, building a house basically on his own has been a dream of The Man’s forever. He has done enough reno to understand how houses are put together, and he has enough contacts in the industry to get licensed professionals who are also friends to do the things he can’t do (like wire and plumb the house).

Well, it’s been a tough fall, dealing with a less-than-scrupulous contractor who cleared a quarter of our acre-sized lot and charged us almost $15,000. If you have no previous experience, this is quite an exorbitant sum for that amount of work, and the guy used to be a friend! We have agreed upon a settlement  (in other words, we won that argument), and have been able to move forward with the help of some fantastic weather. We may even have roof trusses up by the end of the day tomorrow.

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The Boy and I visited the lot yesterday evening to check it out, and he was delighted to see where his room and bathroom would be, even if he wishes it were upstairs like his friend’s room is at his house (ours will be a ranch).

The Man is working hard, sleeping hard, and probably overdoing it right now, but he is single-minded when there is a goal within reach. He hopes to have us in by the 4th of July. The Boy and I are excited, even though I see the bills on the other side. It really will be a dream come true for us.

And to top it off, when we visited the lot this weekend to make The Man take a break from installing 75 floor joists by himself, we suggested The Boy take a walk around the corner down to the end of the cul-de-sac. When he returned, he said that he saw one of his friends-who-are-girls. I thought he wasn’t quite telling the truth, but not two minutes later, a red minivan came around the corner, with a young teenaged girl pulling herself up to sit on the windowsill of the passenger side to say, “Hey!” and wave to The Boy. We suspect she may live a few doors down.

All kinds of reasons to be excited. 😉

Making New Friends

pexels-photo(1)I wrote recently about how we need to diversify, The Boy and me, and we need to find some new friends. My mom sent me a link to an article on adult friendship recently, which is long, but has a few good insights, even if I didn’t see eye to eye with the author on every point. And the very real truth here is that it’s difficult for kiddos on the spectrum to make friends, and it’s difficult for their parents, too.

In the article, they say that sociologists consider three “ingredients” necessary to form close friendships: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.” And as adults, we just don’t have those ingredients readily available, at least not as much as we do  as when we are in school. In fact, I can’t even think of a setting like the one described above, except for some of the autism society events, like Friends and Fun, where kiddos and siblings come together on one Saturday a month to celebrate anyone who has a birthday that month. Who attends is really a crapshoot each month, as anyone with a kiddo on the spectrum can understand – some days whatever you had planned just ain’t happenin’. But we are able to talk about things we’re going through that neurotypical families just don’t understand, and it’s absolutely OK for your kiddo to stim and script to his heart’s content because everyone there gets it.

The article also mentions that we don’t make the time to maintain and cultivate the types of friendships that are healthy and enjoyable, and that in general, we need to do more of that. So maybe The Boy and I should just plan on going to Friends and Fun every month and make it part of our routine. I’d say it very well could be our best shot at diversifying, and getting some more eggs in some more baskets.

Time to Diversify

Where we live, we have certain stores and activities close by and available to us. We have a local Autism Society Chapter. We have the ocean. We have a Walmart, a Michael’s, and a TJMaxx. We have to drive a little bit to get to a 4-screen movie theater. We have to drive even further for a Target, Old Navy, bowling alley, or an arcade. We have to drive a couple of hours to get to the big city stuff. Like a trampoline park.

IMG_3505We went in May last year, and The Boy had an absolute blast. But he was by himself, and after awhile, you realize it would be much more fun with friends. We talked about inviting his friend C and C’s brother and sister the next time we came, or possibly to celebrate their birthdays, as C and his brother are twins and have their birthday a month before The Boy’s. We talked about it several times with C’s mom, a friend of mine, because we would have to coordinate driving or possibly rent a vehicle big enough for all of us.

A couple of weeks ago, a picture popped up on my facebook feed from C’s mom. They were at the trampoline park. And I was miffed. We happened to be in the same town (two hours from home) that day, and my first thought was that The Boy was left out. It has been one of his most earnest wishes to go there with them, and we got nary a text about the trip?

And I have to admit that I’m still miffed, but I’ve mostly let it go, because it’s life and shit happens, and people aren’t as thoughtful as they could be. But mostly because I realized we need to diversify. The Boy doesn’t have enough friends, and we need to work on that, because depending on one family, one kid, is kind of sad, and rather hopeless when C’s mom is as scattered as she is (it’s not a knock – she really is incredibly scattered and disorganized, and she would be the first to tell you). So we’ll work on this, which is difficult for this introverted mom, but it needs to be done. We can’t live in a vacuum, and The Boy deserves to have some fun with friends.

Helping Him Connect

The Man and I were grocery shopping this weekend, and if you do like I do, and go on certain days of the week, you tend to notice the same people shopping on “your” days. I also tend to do the shopping alone, because I can get in and out of the store in twenty minutes without the boys, and it turns into an hour long negotiation with them. But this weekend, The Man tagged along, and we left The Boy at home enjoying his independence.

One of the people I have noticed on previous trips is one of The Boy’s friends-who-is-a-girl. She kinda, sorta recognizes me from band events and such, but I don’t often do more than smile big at her. I mentioned to The Boy that I saw her on one of these trips, and so now, when I leave him at home, he asks me to let him know if I saw her.

This weekend, I did one better. After I saw her, I Facetimed The Boy to let him know, and who walked down the aisle right as I was doing it? The girl in question! So I approached her and said, “Do you want to say hi?” and pointed the face of the phone toward her. A bit confused, I saw a big smile break out on her face when it clicked who I was, and who was on the screen. “He’s showing you his cat,” I said. “Awww! How cute! Hi!” she said to The Boy. His weekend was made, and even though I probably confused her for a minute, I helped him make another connection with a friend.

It may not have been the most “normal” occurrence for her on a weekend, but a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do to help her kiddo make connections and spread awareness and acceptance.

To Know Him is to Love Him

Halloween is right around the corner, and The Boy, true to form, decided last year that he would be Sully from Monsters Inc. this year.  Once he knows what he wants, he doesn’t waver, and even though The Man and I tried to convince him that he would be a really good Dracula, he was certain he wanted to be Sully.

So Sully it is.  But I can not and will not buy an expensive costume. We will be making it as we have done for the past few years.  And since I am making it, I can steer The Boy toward a more age appropriate costume, even if the subject isn’t very. Thanks to Pinterest, I have found a hoodie-based rendition that The Boy said sounded like a good idea. And now the hunt for cheap supplies begins…

Our kick-butt Sonic shoe from last year's costume

Our kick-butt Sonic shoe from last year’s costume

The Man and I may have tried to steer him to something more age appropriate, but in the end, it’s The Boy’s Halloween, and Halloween is for kids, not for us adults to feel better about ourselves and our children.  The choices they make show their passions and creativity, and if we start to make those decisions for them, the light in their eyes gets a little duller.

Yesterday, The Boy came home from school with a cat poster he had purchased from the book fair.  I knew it was coming home, and no, it isn’t the typical purchase from a 13 year-old eighth grade boy, but it made him happy.  So much so that he taped it to the wall in his room as soon as he put his stuff down.  I will never get in the way of him expressing his passion for the things he likes, because that’s a part of him (except for toilets… we have to limit the passion for toilets…). If I start denying that, I’m denying a part of him and it just isn’t right. To know him is to love him, and anyone who does will accept him Sully costume, cat poster and all. Anyone who doesn’t just doesn’t matter.

The Importance of Friends

I’ve never made friends easily. Maybe it’s a spectrummy trait, but I’ve always been somewhat socially awkward, not sure what to say, or when to say it in a conversation.  I don’t read others’ cues all that well, and it’s always been tricky.  My friends over the years have been much like me, not completely socially adept, and never the popular ones, and I like it that way.

The Man makes friends easily, or so I surmise, because he seems to know everyone within a 100 mile radius.  Part of that is growing up here, part of it is having several successful businesses in the area, so that people either went to school with him, bought a mattress from him, bought some blinds from him, or had him fix their sink/closet/screen door/roof. We often can’t get out of the grocery store on a weeknight without stopping to talk to two or three people. And part of his day is structured around breaks at the convenience store and the hardware store so that he can shoot the breeze with some folks.

But, we don’t hang out with other couples. We don’t “entertain”. When we watch HGTV and these young couples are adamant they need space for that, he and I just look at each other uncomprehendingly.  We barely use our dining table for us, let alone needing space for other people. As an entity, we are not very social.

friends at the beachThe Boy has friends at school, and there is one family with a few kids that he feels comfortable going to hang out with outside of school.  Otherwise, he enjoys hanging out in his room with his electronics, or walking around the yard. He enjoys being by himself, obviously.

We like it this way.

However… People need friends.

Being social to the point of doing stuff with other people is difficult, I think, for all three of us. And just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

There are other children at school that I think The Boy would like to hang out with, but either the families have not shown much interest, or I’m not sure how to contact them. And we don’t often attend the autism society chapter’s functions because many times they are on Saturdays, when we do family stuff.

When I left my job, the one person I considered a friend there pretty much fell off the face of the earth. I tried for awhile, but when it wasn’t reciprocated, I stopped trying. Everyone I work with now is in a different place in life than I am, i.e. just quit college… And those in the area I do call friends are soooo, so busy.

It’s a difficult thing. Between homework battles, trying to get dinner on the table, paying bills, looking for more meaningful work, and enjoying each other as a family, I feel like there isn’t much time anyway. But I also increasingly feel like we’re more and more isolated, and we need to do something about it.

Even if it isn’t comfortable.

Sleepovers: Spectrum Style

Last Saturday, we invited The Boy’s best friend over for a sleepover.  He is on the spectrum, too, and is in The Boy’s program at school.  They get along really well together, share the same interests, and this boy just seems to get it when The Boy doesn’t answer a question or doesn’t want to do the same thing he does.

The two spent the morning at our Autism Society’s chapter’s “Friends and Fun” party, during which everyone who celebrates a birthday for that month gets to come to a church youth group center and hang out for a couple of hours.  Presents are given by the chapter, and there’re cupcakes, so it is a great way for the kids to get together without the pressure of a formal birthday party (and figuring out whom to invite).

Then I picked them up and brought them to the beach trailer that The Man and I are renovating… Have I told y’all about that?  Not yet?  Another post entirely…

They waited patiently while I put in a new window…

window work

And then The Man, the boys and I walked over to McDonald’s for some lunch and some much needed sweet tea.

Next, I drove the boys up the way a bit to a bowling alley that we had heard also had an arcade.  After getting lost twice (thank you, iPhone!), we found the place and proceeded to spend quarters on slightly beat up machines that didn’t always give us tickets.  The boys had a great time playing foosball and air hockey, and ended up with some fantastic plastic slinky bracelets that promptly broke within the next half hour.  But it was fun 😉

foosball

We stopped at Target to see if the Halloween costumes were out yet, which they weren’t, but we had a good time poking around the legos and stuff, and they were patient with me while I poked around in the office supplies, ogling washi tape.  We picked up a couple of toys for Raphael, too.

On the way back home, we stopped at a Halloween superstore, as The Boy’s friend seems to have an obsession with Halloween and the haunted house he and his parents create in their garage every year.  This superstore actually had a small haunted house setup through which you HAD to walk to get into the store.  The Boy’s friend seemed to like it and be scared by it at the same time, while The Boy was just scared.  We checked out the costumes, and I think The Boy was most traumatized by the fake boobs in one of the aisles.

We headed back to the beach trailer to see The Man’s progress and then headed over to one of the piers with a restaurant (and a great view), ate dinner, and walked out on the pier after dark.

pier at dusk

We headed home and let the boys do their thing with DSs and iPads and computers – oh my!  As The Man and I headed to bed rather early – he tired from the physical work of putting in new sub-floor by himself, and me tired from entertaining two preteens for the past 9 hours.

Let’s just say I’m glad it doesn’t happen every weekend, but I am SO glad The Boy has a friend to be able to do this with.  It’s a small slice of normal for him, and he loves it.