Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hanging in the Typical World

I love nine year olds.  They are the bomb.  Tonight we took two other boys, Lucas and Beckett, with us to a baseball game with Alex.  It was a riot.  They were all hopped up on candy and the excitement of a playoff game in the farm leagues.  Lots of music, action, and errors.  Fans screaming and stomping the metal stands.  It didn't really matter if we won or lost.  The boys were happy to hang with us parents, but also kind of did their own thing.  They danced, played tag, tickled each other, and had staring contests.  Beckett was practicing hard to blow bubbles, and kept getting gum stuck all over his face.   The boys and Kevin were having so much fun they almost got klarned on the head by a foul ball.  It bounced away and some kids under the bleachers got the prize.  We stayed for the whole game, well after dark and our usual bed time, and only had to mange our son a few times when he got too wild and would not stop dancing and singing during tense game moments.  He also was a bit of a pill in the car on the way back, but the other boys did not care.  It was a lovely night.

 We have been amping up the social interactions this summer.  Well, we've been amping up everything, really.  Social stuff, sports, chores, and behavioral expectations.  In California we realized we need to rely on others to teach him many things, but we need to get him there and let him try.  Even if it is hard.  Even if he is the odd man out who does not "get" things like other kids.  He does not learn the same way, but learn he does.  We have taken on lesson from others in downhill skiing, jujitsu, and soccer.  Continued lessons in nordic skiing and swimming.  Further lessons have come in the form of acting camp and drum lessons.  He has not become a prodigy in anything, although he is a fine rock and jazz drummer for age nine.  Lots of musicality coming out.  But always in his own way.  With soccer we joined our first "herd"sport, as my husband says.  And it has been marvelous.  He joined the team without hesitation.  He is rather lost, but never down.  Not real aggressive, but fortunately he is not the only one in that zone on his team.  He still stands out, if you pay attention, but can sometimes blend in too.

This week Alex demanded a play date.  "I want a play date today!"  This from the kid who has always preferred to retreat to his room.  The one we needed a stunt double to open gifts at his early birthday parties because it was just too stressful. The kid who would hide when other kids showed up to play.  We have turned the corner, and it is because we have pushed it.  "Stretching" him, as Temple Grandin recommended.  Stretching ourselves too, because seeing your kid rejected is about the worst thing in the world.  Partly success has come because he has been ready.  In second grade he and Lucas became friends, and that was his first spontaneous and full friendship.   He was ready to make a close friend, and Lucas was new to school and had a desire to have a friend who was not tied up in school drama.  It has been a prefect match.  They were tight all through third grade, and even though we are changing schools we plan to keep Lucas.  We will make sure we see him on weekends and breaks.

But we have also started expanding further this summer.  More play dates, and more kids on the roster.  More sports, and more events.  We spent the whole day at the Carlton County fair, when in the past we would have kept it shorter to avoid serious melt down.  Real or imagined, it is sort of hard to say.   Alex would act anxious so we would help him to avoid things.  But that became a trap, because we were always on the lookout for the perfect situation, and got boxed in by our avoidance or leaving early from things.  Then he did not learn he could actually cope, and neither did we.

This is all common stuff for kids on the Spectrum, and common for some kids off the Spectrum too.  It would be a lot easier if we had had starter kids, oh well.  As it is, it feels like we are nipping in and out of the typical world.  This summer has been filled with typical kids.  Nine is a great age.  Independence struggles are starting, but snuggling is still possible too.  The kids are not totally on their own, but they demand some autonomy.  Every independent move by our guy is silently cheered, and even the mistakes are mostly cherished.  Lots of spills and mis-calculations, like when he made liquid pancake batter, the coffee disaster of June when he tanked a whole pot, and dropping that whole quart of pineapple juice and yelling at me to clean it up.  He poured water in my muselix, instead of almond milk, and made nasty oatmeal the next week for all of the house.  And he has been telling us off.  Some mistakes are remedied, like all the food, others earn time outs, like all the sass.  But still, we move forward.  Upward and onward, as they say.

Alex still has many quirks, and much to learn, but it seems we are making real progress.  We start with our remote sessions with the Koegel Center next week, and they will keep us honest and growing.  He starts a new school at the end of the month, and that will take him to the next level too.  New kids, new teachers, new expectations.  Keep the best of the old, move on to the new.  The grand adventure continues.  For now, it is late.  We are post ball game, our home team did not win, it's a shame.  But the three boys sleeping in the attic didn't really care.  They cared much more about pop corn, having fun, ice cream at home, playing a board game when they got back, and having a massive light saber battle up stairs.  Tomorrow it will be pancakes and water balloons.  We will stay typical as long as we can.       

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bedtime Limited Offer

The time is now to write up our sweet bedtime routine, as it fades out.  I knew it would not last forever, but have enjoyed it ever so much.

My kiddo has always been a champ at going to bed.  He has loved his sleep, and always seemed to run off to bed in relief that the long day was finally over.  But for the longest time there were no stuffies.  No loved fuzzie ones that he had to have with him.  I would tuck him in with his Bunny, or Blue, or Piglet, and he never seemed to really care.  Until about a year ago.  Yes, at age 8 my kid finally became attached to stuffies, much to my great relief.  It was one of those childhood markers that I was afraid would never come, but it did.  And it evolved into a ritual that was very strict, and very fun.

First came Stitch.  Stitch had to bounce on his head and laugh maniacally, and then pop into his spot at the far side of the bed, tucked under the cover of course and against the wall.  Then came Blue.  She does not talk, but would hum the Blues Clues theme, lick his cheek, and snuggle in next to Stitch.  Next Magenta would kiss him, meow, and say Good-night Alex, because Magenta can speak even though Blue cannot.  No one has ever been able to explain that one to me.  Then it was Penguie's turn (the Kennywood Penguin), he would waddle up Alex's back and peck his cheek four times and settle in on his other side, away from the wall.  Then Zoom the Turtle was up, rolling up Alex's back (he's very round) and stopping to kiss him twice on the nose.  I would pause, and Alex would ask, "Where's Perry?", and Perry the Platypus would be procured from a hiding spot, chitter at him, and crawl under the covers.  And finally, Yoda.  He would say something like, "Night Good, young Padawan.  Kiss your Mother.  Sleep good you shall."  I would get my kiss, and out I would go, turning out the light as I went, leaving him chocked in with his little friends.

It has been fading for a few weeks now.  I don't know if it is soccer leaving him too tired for long routine, late summer nights, or just getting older, but our little routine has been fading.  Perhaps it will rev up again for a final hurrah, and I hope it does.  It is such a sweet part of having a child.  Day is done, routine completed, another step further down the road.  Sure, it was kind of a pain in the butt to find all the stuffies from wherever they had rolled or been tossed, digging under the bed or under the covers, but I finally got wise and dug them out before starting the routine.  Then it wasn't even a pain at all.

But it has been a time limited offer.  Only good for so many months and then gone.  This is what I have learned about being a parent.  It is always moving, always shifting.  Once you get used to something it is time to say good-bye.  Having a kid on the Spectrum many of the hellos have been later and the duration not as long as a typical kid, but maybe that makes me appreciate it all the much more.  I realize that some parents never get to hello.  And some have to say good-bye all too soon.  And some who wanted to be parents aren't.  It's all a time limited offer, this life thing.  Parenting is fleeting.  Life is fleeting.  No one knows where it all goes.    

So have fun.  Speak in funny voices when the time is right.  Roll turtles up a little boys back.  Kiss those sweet cheeks.  Play hard.  Sleep hard.  Think hard.  Dream hard.  Life is fleeting, but it sure can be divine.