I’m a worrier. Always have been, it’s kinda my ‘thing’. I’m not proud of it, and next to my tendency to over share and to talk too much – it’s my most hated personal trait.
One of the things that has been bothering me a lot lately may seem small and insignificant to some, but I’ve struggled a lot with it and am still trying to figure out the best way to move past it. And that is friendships. Specifically- for my boys.
Lucas has been catching the bus home for a long time and whilst there were some teething problems, he seemed to be handling it quite well. But recently he has been coming home quite distraught and adamant that everyone hated him. It took a lot of directional questions and detective work on my part, but I finally got to the bottom of this alleged bus bullying and it was a hard one for me to stomach.
My boy in all his aspie glory took it upon himself to self-nominate as the ‘bus monitor’. Which, in plain terms means that he decided that snitching on all the other kids who weren’t following the rules was his personal responsibility.
So, any child eating on the bus was awarded a mark against their name in his notepad, as was anyone swearing, standing up or ‘being a bully’ and he took his self appointed job very seriously and carried his notebook into school every morning to report to the teachers what he had seen on the bus the previous day.
Clearly the other kids were not huge fans of this and the rest is pretty easy to figure out.
Lucas is turning ten this year, and sadly – his quirky little ways aren’t as endearing to other kids as they once were. Kids are quicker to point out his differences and he responds to this with aggression.
And then there is Harley.
I worked DAMN hard to get him this placement in an autism class and I stand by my decision. He needed this because he was drowning in mainstream and I truly believe he’s in the best possible place for the rest of his schooling. But that comes at a price.
And the price is socialising.
Since he has been in his placement, he is surrounded by other children with varying levels (for lack of a better word) of autism. And that’s great – but it’s also not.
Because at lunch and recess and sport and PE and pretty much every extra curricular activity that his class is involved in- he is surrounded by other children who also have massive social delays and enormous anxiety. They are all given the option to stay in the ‘safe playground’ (which is a concrete area with seating attached to the unit they attend) or to play in the ‘regular playground’ which is where the rest of the high schoolers hang out.
No prizes for guessing where they all end up.
And all of them ‘want ‘ friends, but none of them have any idea how to go about making them. And that’s sad. None of them understand how to initiate conversations and because they’re not choosing to mix with the rest of the school- they aren’t learning vital social skills to survive in the big bad world. This bothers me greatly.
As much as I want to wrap him up in cotton wool and tell him that he can stay my baby forever- I know that I am doing him a disservice by not encouraging him to do the hard things and teaching him those social skills that he will be expected to display one day in the workforce.
Harley comes out of school most days and talks animatedly about the boys in his class and what they did at lunch time and the games they played in class and he talks fondly of the other boys, but he has absolutely no idea how to foster friendships with any of them and truly believes that they aren’t his friends and don’t actually like him.
And I’m left wondering how to teach these skills to my boys when they only have each other and don’t really have any ‘typical’ friends to teach them about having mates or being socially appropriate etcetera etcetera.
I worry that this is my fault because I never involved them in any sports. (I offered but they weren’t interested). And I never forced them into play dates or social functions that they clearly didn’t want to attend.
I even stopped requiring them to go to church because the fall out afterwards from the sensory onslaught was becoming too much for ANY of us to deal with.
And because it’s ‘my thing’ to worry, I lie awake some nights angry with myself for not fixing any of this earlier – or some how preventing it and I beat myself up for being a crappy mother.
I worry that they are going to be dysfunctional adults and that I would’ve caused it through neglect. And then my mind starts to go places it shouldn’t.
Eventually I drift off into fitful sleep and wake up the next day drained and beyond tired.
But here’s the thing: I really do know better. I know deep down in my heart of hearts that this will all somehow work out.
Because they’re God’s kids and He won’t let them sink. They may go through any number of storms in their lives but He will always be in the boat with them telling those pesky waves to quieten down and the raging waters to calm.
Like He does for me.
All. The. Time.
As my dad used to say: “Worry is like riding a rocking horse. You can ride it like crazy but it doesn’t actually get you anywhere, all it does is wear you out and steal your joy”.
I just need to be reminded occasionally.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”