The wife had originally thought of taking the kids to the Zoo today – it seemed to make perfect sense, since (in theory) folks would be in church and we could squeeze in a few hours before it started to rain. Of course, it was cold all day and started to drizzle, and the baby decided he needed a morning nap, so that went right out the window. Instead, I took it on myself to try to get at least some of the Monster’s homework done before the wife’s left with it.
Yesterday afternoon, rather than getting it done, we spent some of the afternoon at the playground to give the kids time to run around.
We’re fortunate to have a playground relatively close to our house – literally two minutes away in the car – and that’s where we go when we don’t feel like driving up to the regional park. On nice Saturdays, there’s a mix of the residents from the broader neighborhood that head over there, a smattering of Orthodox Jews, non-Orthodox like us and a couple of the non-Jews who live further away. It’s nice because it exposes the kids to a whole bunch of cultures all at one spot, rather than the distributions they’d otherwise get closer to home (all Jewish, majority Orthodox) or in the Monster’s school (all non-Jewish and majority-minority).
Because it’s Shabbat, there aren’t as many toys there either that are liable to be “borrowed” by the Monster as he roams around. The Monster has a thing for bicycles and wheels in general, and buttons when he can get his hands on them. I like it for precisely that reason – there’s far, far less of a chance for him to be tempted to try to play with something without asking first, which is something we’ve been working hard on. That, and it lets the baby roam around on uneven terrain with a far larger, safe area without us having to hover so much.
The Monster spent a few minutes running around and around with the child who had the quad, first being chased, then chasing after it. This was just fine to us – it both wears him down and is one of the few games that’s very clear to him when it comes to the rules. The real problem came when it was time for him to want to play with the quad, since he wants to play with the buttons as well.
And it’s that kind of time where the wife and I somewhat look at each other and debate (while trying to restrain the Monster just a little bit) exactly what to say about him. It just feels very weird and awkward still to say “He has autism” to a perfect stranger, and hope that they understand his behavior, much less why we’re being how we are with him.
Now, you all know me from reading this blog for a while – it’s rarely a huge issue for me to actually talk about the Monster and Autism and how it affects him, how it manifests… but that’s generally either in my dads’ group or among people that I feel comfortable with, and not with some random stranger in the park. (Hell, I have enough trouble talking about it to folks I don’t know at the curling club, and I wear my Sevenly “Live Loud for Autism” sweatshirt there.) So trying to figure out how to say it to someone we don’t know is a huge deal.
Over the course of a couple of minutes (and some interaction with a remote-control Thomas the Tank Engine toy), we finally managed to get around to mentioning why we’re concerned and somewhat restraining the Monster, much less why he’s being prompted for asking and thanking people. And, in the end, it was a non-issue. (The other child was also in the midst of being taught to share, being an only child apparently, so it was a good lesson for him as well.)