December 5, 2010

Come Out and Play

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , at 9:13 pm by autismmommytherapist

We pull quickly into the McDonald’s parking lot, Justin already annoyed at me because I’ve made two wrong turns despite the protests of my nagging GPS, and since I’ve driven by the golden arches twice with no sign of slowing down, he is making his displeasure known. For once I can totally block out his familiar whine, as in two minutes I know I’m about to blow my boy’s mind, and he’ll completely forget his prior angst. I find a spot close to the entrance, grab my purse and holy bag of toys (just in case), release him from his harness, and let him charge with me in tow to the entrance. We make it through the wind tunnel of double doors, and he is about to throw the last one wide and run into the “restaurant”, when he stops dead in his tracks.

“Hi Justin, I’m here!” shouts “David” through the glass partition that still separates them, at a pitch loud enough that everyone in central Jersey knows he’s in residence. Justin responds by throwing his entire body onto the other side of the divide, face and hands suctioned against glass as I pray that I’ve remembered his wipes. I watch a range of emotions cascade fleetingly across his face:  confusion (this is his friend, but it’s not school), shock (again, WHY is he here?), and finally pleasure (I guess this is okay after all). At last my boy turns to me and graces me with that look that says “you did it again, Mom”, that precious second of connection that makes all the worrying, the drudgery, hell, the sheer annoyance of trudging through his autism worthwhile after all. We bound through the heaviest door yet and my son is immediately surrounded by his classmate and his two siblings, while their mother and I attempt to shake hands and introduce ourselves over the chaos of four young children in a fast food chain.

My boy is on a playdate.

In a prior post, Buddy System, I explained that we’ve ventured into this territory before, so this isn’t quite his first foray into the world of friendship. While I wouldn’t label our prior attempts as failures, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the “mom” part of our get-togethers was by far the most exciting component for all involved. Our kids only acknowledged each other for a moment, then went back to their far more reinforcing activities which ranged from stimming, perseverating, hiding small toy parts throughout my home (an activity guaranteed to shave years off my husband’s life), or my favorite, asking me repeatedly, without words, for more food. Never let it be said our kids can’t figure out ways to get their needs met.

No, if I’m honest, I cajoled these other moms into giving up some time on a few Saturdays because I thought this is what Justin should have, because the thought of him not having a true friend has been one of the most difficult components of his type of autism for me to accept. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without a constant, sometimes shifting array of wonderful women with whom I could bitch about boys, men, pour our collective hearts out, eat(!), and drink better and better wine. The idea that he’d never get to experience this has been at times more painful for me to accept than the thought he might never have real language.

Yes, I was a big fan of Sex and the City.

But today, even if only for a few minutes, my son is going to hang out with a peer, one whom I even felt comfortable allowing to take my boy’s hand and lead him to a booth without my accompanying death grip (trust me, there should have been a parade for that moment). Justin actually laughed as David and his brother and sister played “war” with their exquisitely crafted happy meal toys (God, I hate fast food), even permitting his friend to take his hand and conquer one of the weaker warriors. I sat AT A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TABLE from my offspring and had at least ten minutes of conversation with an adult, knowing my child was safely ensconced mere feet away from me, yet immersed in a completely different world. I even got to finish my McSnack wrap without interruption.

It actually was “good times”.

I don’t know how long this friendship might last. I have no idea for what time period Justin will remain at his new school, nor what the future holds for David. We don’t live too far from one another, but we have eight kids between us, and I’m certain this tenacious single mom might eventually have more important things to worry about than her son’s social life. This entire adventure might end as quickly as it’s begun.

But I do know this. We’ve been slowly building up to this point for the last two years, as I’ve watched my child grow more and more aware of his surroundings, show interest in others, and express an increasing desire to connect. This half hour has had true meaning for him, was worth the “playdate dance” we mothers endure. This time, he really had a taste of what I’ve always taken for granted. He actually had fun.

And no matter what happens down the road, I get to carry with me the knowledge that even for just a few moments, my son dwelled joyously in the land of his peers.

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12 Comments »

  1. Kathy M said,

    Yay! So glad to hear that, Kim! I’m so happy for Justin…

  2. LZ said,

    I am very tickled for both you and Justin that he has reached and enjoyed this wonderful milestone. Wonderful for both of you.

    I couldn’t help but zero in on something else though too…8 kids between the two of you. In my mind that immediately translated to “that single mom has 6 kids, at least one of which is apparently somewhere on the spectrum.” Bless. Her. Heart.

  3. Cindy said,

    What a wonderful day for you both!

  4. Mom said,

    Even though you had shared this event with me verbally, it still brought tears to my eyes again. Look at that picture! I am so happy for both of you.

  5. Jina said,

    McSnack Wrap without interruption? Great day for all! Looks like Justin is enjoying more and so is mom. 🙂

    • Any mom can relate to the McSnack Wrap issue… We are both enjoying things more, you are completely right. Hope you’re well hon!

  6. misifusa said,

    And we can all attest to how important friends are…so happy that Justin and David have eachother. 🙂


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