Inclusion Starts with “Hello!”

Thursday night, The Boy and I ventured to one of the marching band rehearsals from which he has been excused, due to logistics and conflicts with summer day camp. We wanted to just stop in and possibly say hi, meet some people, help with the transition. I made arrangements to leave work early so I could pick him up and get him there before it was over. We arrived and discovered the brass section in the band room. I told The Boy we would wait until they were on break to enter, so as not to disturb them. After waiting for a good bit with no break, he wanted to find the woodwind section to see how many of his friends from last year were in attendance.

IMG_3890

He loves it so much..

We found them in the library and were welcomed in by the band director. We sat and listened for a bit, and decided to head back to see if the brass were on break. They were, so we walked in, and The Boy’s middle school director was at the front of the room. I can’t quite describe the look he gave us when we walked in, but it was not pleasant. He didn’t say anything – not, “Hello,” not “Hey,” – nothing. No welcome, and no introduction for The Boy to this room full of kids who didn’t know who he was, save for a few. The Boy, oblivious, walked over to one of his friends and gave her a hug as she sat, and then I suggested we leave again, as our presence certainly did not seem to be welcome. We went back to the library and the woodwinds were being released back to the band room for a full rehearsal. The high school band director greeted The Boy again, and The Boy talked his ear off the whole way back to the band room. We listened for a bit to the full band play, and suggested again that we leave before everyone was released, and The Boy agreed.

He may be oblivious, but I am not.

While thankful the high school band director at least had the sense to appear welcoming, I’m sad that none of the high school students had the wherewithal to introduce themselves to The Boy. I’m disappointed that not one of the three drum majors, students in high levels of leadership, recognized their duty to welcome a member, albeit a non-traditional one. I’m livid that a professional educator who taught my son for two years cannot even greet him, and would go out of his way to make him feel unwelcome.

And right now I’m at a loss. I knew this wasn’t a terribly inclusive group to begin with, based on The Boy’s friend’s experience last year, who is also on the spectrum, and lacked a single friend in the group even at the end of the season. I knew I wouldn’t gain any friends by forcing our way into the group, even with the weight of the law and human decency behind us. But I have not been so uncomfortable, and made to feel so incredibly unwelcome since I encountered mean girls in my own middle school experience. It was that palpable. Do I try to educate and advocate? Do I engage outside help either from school administration, the autism society, or the state band directors association?

Or do I give up?

Is this really worth it?

I don’t know. All I know is that this shouldn’t be.

Advertisements

All Quiet on the Northern Front

On Father’s Day, we were up north, but I made sure The Boy called his dad. He spoke with him briefly, spoke to both of his uncles briefly, and spoke to his grandpa briefly. The call lasted 7 minutes.

I tried to think back to the last time they had spoken, and couldn’t think of a time since he had dropped The Boy off with us in January, at the end of his winter break. I checked my phone bill and I was wrong.  He did call once in March, and they spoke for 9 minutes.

For those of you keeping score, that’s 16 minutes in 6 months.

There hasn’t been any attempt to get any time with The Boy for the summer break, and there has been no discussion of when the next visitation might occur. Maybe it’s because I told him unequivocally in January that The Boy flying alone on a plane wasn’t going to happen any time soon. “It’s not a good idea,” were my exact words.

Is this the beginning of the end? One initiated contact in the past 6 months?

I don’t have any words. Just sadness.

when the school calls...

The Angry Ex, 8 Years Later

numbers-time-watch-whiteIt’s been just about eight years since The Boy’s dad walked out and I filed for divorce. It’s been so long since The Boy’s dad lived with him, I wonder just how much he remembers from those years. He was only six, after all, when his dad first decided to live downstairs, and then decided to move four states away.

For a time, we were both angry. Then I lost interest, and he remained angry. But even if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it does mellow you out, a bit. I’m not going to say he still doesn’t have flashes of angry – it was only a couple of years ago that he cancelled the night before a visitation because he suddenly didn’t like our drop-off arrangements. And I wonder what will happen this spring when he realizes I really mean it that The Boy will not be flying by himself. I saw a flash of the old fire in his eyes when I told him that at drop-off a few weeks ago.

The truth is, probably nothing will happen. He may get annoyed, he may even get angry. But he probably won’t shout at me on the phone or send me a nasty text – both of which he loved to employ in previous years. Maybe he has reached a stage where he is indifferent, as well.

In any case, most of our dealings are what you could call “cordial”. Of course I wish he would make more of an effort with his son, but I realized a long time ago that I have no control over that, and it isn’t worth my energy. As long as it stays that way, “cordial” is just fine by me.

At His Dad’s

The Boy is at his dad’s after a semi-successful hand-off this past Sunday. The ex was only an hour and half late, and The Man and I only got into one argument about directions…

He seems to be happy enough, which is about all I can ask for. I will tell you that with the rocky patches we’ve had lately, I am still holding my breath. I was pretty anxious about handing him off this time, and am missing him quite a bit.

Once a year is tough. Of course the ex is already making promises about Spring Break, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it. For now, The Man and I are having a quiet week to ourselves.

I hope you are enjoying any holidays you may be celebrating, and your families most of all. All will be right again in our world in a few days.

Demands, Airplanes, and Christmas

Text from the ex (summarized by me): Hey, you haven’t told me if I can get The Boy for a week after Christmas, and oh by the way, I can’t do Thanksgiving. And I want him to fly up because I can’t get off my sorry ass and drive.

I can’t tell you the last time the ex has spoken to his son on the phone. He hasn’t seen him since last Christmas.  He’s made one piddly child support payment in the last 60 days, but he is going to text me and all in one breath tell me he’s cancelling his next visitation but wants to put him on an airplane after Christmas and could I hurry up about getting back to him because he has to buy plane tickets.

How about you hurry up and pay child support?  How about you hurry up and call your son?  How about you —

Deep breath.

Only four more years. Putting him on a plane will never happen because it would take money and planning skills, neither of which he obviously has.

smh

Update: Since this was written, I texted him to ask what he had found out about airline assistance programs. He promised to call Sunday to talk about it. Never called.

stress by bottled_void

The Ex, Fall Plans, and a Boy Growing Up

DCP_0407When the ex cancelled his summer visitation, he said he planned to come and visit The Boy this fall some time, and then asked about Christmas.  At the time, I reminded him that he had had The Boy last Christmas, which would mean he would have him for Thanksgiving this year, instead, and then possibly the week after Christmas if we could work it out. He agreed, and said he would let me know about fall plans.

Tomorrow, October begins, and I doubt the visit here will happen. In fact, he texted the other day to explain why we hadn’t received child support in a month, and to reiterate that he was “working on” Thanksgiving. No mention of the previous plan to visit here sometime this fall.

The Boy has been through this enough to know that what his dad says will happen rarely does, but he still hopes. When I remind him that we’ll have to wait and see what happens, “I know, I know, I know,” he says, and goes right on hoping. Usually.

Fast forward to this past weekend. It was a rough one, because the girl upon whom The Boy has a crush was absent Friday. As you well know, when someone is absent from school, it is a sign that the end is nigh, and we all run around screaming at the sky because she has moved away, we will never see her again, and why bother doing anything because there’s no point.

The Man and I were doing our best to cheer him up, offering fun things to do, and being generally silly, when suddenly, The Boy piped up from the backseat of the car (always conversing in the car), “I have an idea!” Usually this means he is starting to come around, starting to make everything ok in his own mind, but this time it was actually a real idea. “We can go to Myrtle Beach and ride the go-karts, and I don’t mind missing school to do that.”

Wait, what?

Did he just say he was ok with missing school? This kid? The one I have had to beg and plead with doctors and dentists for the past eight years just to find appointments close to the end of the school day so I wouldn’t be reminded fortnightly of that one day in February of 2006 when he had to miss school??

But he wasn’t finished.

“And if my dad can’t have me for Thanksgiving weekend, we could even go then!”

He actually vocalized himself that his dad’s plans would most likely fall through. And made a back up plan of his own to deal with it.

I think my little boy is growing up.

*tear*

Summer Break Doesn’t Mean Vacation at Dad’s

Friday, The Boy came home telling everyone he was going to miss school Monday because he was going to visit his dad.  There were shared looks all around, between us adults in The Boy’s life, because we wondered where this was coming from, and how best to let him know that this was not happening.

I took the lead and explained that no, he was going to his last half-day of school on Monday, and then Grammy was taking him to lunch.  If he wanted to call his dad to discuss a summer trip up to his place, he could do so, but as of right now we have no plans.

This took a few repetitions from all of us.  Then he decided that Grammy would take him to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday… Wha?? Again, we explained that a trip like that takes some planning and no little amount of money.

“How much?” he asked.

“At least $200,” The Man replied.

“I’ll have to find a way to make some money…” The Boy said.

He wants to be on the road again...

He wants to be on the road again…

We’re still not sure if it was conversations with other kids at school who were either going on vacation, or visiting their own dads in other places, or something else entirely that triggered this fantasy-plan.  It may just have been the strong association he has that summer break equals a trip to dad’s, even though it didn’t happen at all last year.

He’s reluctant to call him, at any rate.  And I doubt any plan would come to fruition, anyway.  The ex has been more and more absentee the past few years, and I don’t see that trend changing as The Boy gets older, and possibly harder to relate to. I suspect the ex is dealing with his own unemployment and demons right now, anyway, if the absence of child support means anything.

Monday came, and a meltdown ensued at school, which necessitated a pickup by Grammy, and a very rocky afternoon when the Boy realized he was done for the year and couldn’t go back. Eventually, an ice cream sandwich and a trip to McDonald’s for lunch helped him turn the corner.  Was it the bus being late to pick him up that morning? Was it the fact that many of his friends were not there that day? Or was it the fact that his plans were not turning out like he’d hoped, and he finally understood that he was not going to his dad’s? I’ll never know.

Usually these fantasies indicate something he really wants to do, but this one is just not in my power. Hopefully, we’ll be able to talk him through and out of this idea into what our real summer plans include. I hope it’s enough for him.

An Open Letter to the Ex

Our son is thirteen now. I wonder if you are shocked by how much he has grown every time you see him. The last time it had been over a year. This time, eight months. I know he’s grown because I have to buy him new pants for every band concert. The size 18’s from last spring were way too short last week so we bought some 29/30’s. I wonder if headlines with autism catch your eye, or if you’ve ever read anything about it. I wonder if you remember anything from the year and a half between the diagnosis and when you left. I wonder how you spend time with him when he’s with you – do you try to connect or do you just coexist? Feeling a little schadenfreude as I hope you experience some of the pubescent rage we have witnessed this fall. But not too much because I wonder if you could handle it, and know I’d rather not find out. In a few years we will have been divorced longer than we were married and the boy will have lived longer without you than with you. That should scare the bejesus out of you, but it doesn’t seem to even register on your radar. Shocking to realize his speech teacher at his school last year who saw him once a week spent more time with him than you have in the last year, and knows him infinitely more than you do.

I wonder a lot, but it isn’t my place to know. That’s between you and him. The question I will never get an answer to is how. How do you live without him?

So I shake my head, sigh, give him to you for Christmas and cross my fingers. This never gets easier.

On-Again, Off-Again Dad

The ex has called a couple of times over the past month or so, after a couple of months of not calling. He said, “I get him for Christmas this year, right?” Ummm, ok. So after making use of your liberal visitation schedule for two weeks out of the last 104, you want to stake your claim? Sure. Yes, you actually are supposed to have him starting on Christmas Eve, as it is an odd year. “I’ll try to get some time off, then,” he said. Sure, I thought.  Like last Christmas.

He called once more, spoke to The Boy only for a little while, and that was the last we heard anything about Christmas.  The Boy’s birthday was Wednesday, and his mom had sent gifts, one from her, and one from his dad. Her card said they were looking forward to seeing him at Christmas.  But the ex didn’t even call his son on his birthday.

What?

My mom told me that recently, she and The Boy were at Walmart and he said he really hoped he’d get to see his dad at Christmas, because he hadn’t seen him since April.  Yes, it hurts him more than he’ll admit to me, and yes, he does keep track.

As The Man says, kids are only young once. He’s going to miss it completely.

Angry for The Boy and pity for the ex. And partly angry for me too, really, because I have my own life and family that will be affected by his inadequacy. But mostly angry for The Boy.

Behavior Really Is Communication

Behavior is Communication.  This was one of the tenets of autism I learned early on.  I remember sitting in a workshop with my then-husband, who really just didn’t get it, and this was the key piece I walked away with – I already knew it, but the workshop had reinforced it, and I had hoped my then-husband would have an a-ha! moment, but it never came.

The ex has now cancelled on The Boy for his week of visitation next month, and I broke it to The Boy late last week.  He had equated this planned trip to his dad’s to the escape plan of the tank fish in Finding Nemo, and would talk about how he was looking forward to seeing whether or not the escape plan would work.

Well it didn’t.

And at first, The Boy seemed OK.  “I guess the escape plan didn’t work.  I guess we’re stuck in the tank,” he would say.  I knew he didn’t really feel like he was stuck here with us, but that the plan fell through.

As the weekend wore on, and we began to witness more teenager-y behavior (refusal to do things we asked, etc.), it took my mom pointing out to me that this behavior was probably coming from the cancellation of plans.  And I had a Doh! moment.  I should know better, because of that basic rule, BEHAVIOR = COMMUNICATION.

Of course, that explains why he was being such a jerkface this weekend!

It’s still a sore subject, but figuring it out has helped The Man and me gain a little perspective, and retain a little more compassion for him right now.  Sometimes it’s hard to be compassionate to someone who is being a jerkface, but The Boy is still just a kid, and a kid who has been cancelled on again by his dad.

“I knew this escape plan wasn’t going to work.  Do you remember me telling you that before?”

😦