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.