I had a very interesting experience yesterday.
I don't know--does everyone know by now that I have an 8 year old son somewhere vaguely on the Autism Spectrum? Okay, well now you do. If you're interested in the Autism thang, you can always scroll down to the bottom of my blog and find the "labels" on the right side bar. If you click on "Autism," or "Autism Spectrum," or "Jack", you'll find where a lot of my angst is stored here in this blog.
But I digress...
So, yesterday after school, as always, I was letting the kids stick around to play, along with one of my mom friends, her daughter, and another classmate of Ella's whom she was babysitting after school. There is now a good-sized snow hill on one side of the school, and kids LOVE a snow hill, so they were having a great time.
Not long after we had been out, a raucous snowball fight broke out nearby among a small group of older boys. One boy in particular seemed to be extra aggressive, and kept whipping snowballs right at the head of the little sister of one of the boys, at close range. One of the snowballs splattered right across the back of her head and fell down the back of her coat and everything.
What an obnoxious kid, I thought.
The mom I was with was really horrified by this kid's seemingly "bully-esh" behaviour, and decided she should teach him a lesson and throw a snow ball at HIS head. It was a misguided idea, sure, but she was trying to make it more of a light-hearted, mischievous thing than a stern lecture. So, she got a snow ball and lightly through it at him, but he turned his head just in time for the snow to hit him on his cheek near his ear.
And the look on his face??? He was STUNNED. He couldn't believe it. He had the widest eyes of disbelief. He stopped and said; "YOU THREW A SNOW BALL AT MY HEAD!"
Well, things kind of escalated from there, and he got angrier, and mouthier and stood back so he could throw snowballs at the mom (who, by the way, felt mortified by the whole scene, because she really is a nice person, and isn't malevolent at all).
And the more belligerent and mouthy the kid became, and the more he threatened to get his CELL PHONE and CALL THE POLICE about the ICE BALL that had been WHIPPED at HIS FACE, it was like a combination lock suddenly clicked into place in my brain:
That boy was the 13 year old version of Jack.
It was all there before me: the over-the-top outrage, the total lack of connecting the wrongness in HIS actions to the wrong that had been done to HIM, the mouthiness, the inability to let it go even as someone tried to mollify him.
As he was whipping snowballs in our direction, there was my boy, up on the snow hill calmly saying; "would ya please stop it?" to him. At one point the kid said; "SHUT UP, JACK" and made a face at him.
And I stood there fascinated. Taking it all in. I had never met a kid who was basically like my son; looked like any other kid, but had that social cluelessness, that mouthiness, that total inability to "learn a lesson."
By this point, the poor kid was on his way home, shouting anger at us from across the street, and I was pleading for him to come back so I could explain to him that I KNEW what he was; that I understood. That nobody was angry anymore.
But he just kept shouting "WHY DON'T YA MAKE ME?!?"
And then all night long, I was haunted by the look on his face. I can't explain it as well as I'd like. It's a special Autism Spectrum kinda look. It's the look Jack gets on his face when I do or say something to him that mimics the bad thing he has just done. It's a look that says; "no matter how bad I am, you are never allowed to be angry at me because I need you to love me 100% of the time."
Not that I'm saying that kid wants me to love him no matter what.
I thought about that look all night long. And I thought about that kid going home and saying that some kid's MOM threw a snowball at him, and I thought about how upsetting the whole confrontation would be to him, and I thought about how the parents would feel, because even though they'd probably know their kid had done something wrong in the first place, it would still be another one of those stories they'd have to hold on to in which nobody understood.
I sat on Jack's bed last night, and talked to him about what had happened, and how I regretted being a grouch to the kid at first. Jack helpfully agreed that I was "too mean," and needed to be "more patient." Thanks, Jack.
And then he remembered the face the boy had made at him, and he got all ticked off. "He was a JERK for making that face at me!" And this after we had this big discussion on tolerance, and sympathy, and how some people can't help what they do or say. But just don't do these things to JACK personally. Ha.
It was a very strange experience. The only good thing I can say is that I am so thankful I recognised this poor kid for who he was, albeit a little too late. How many other ignorant people simply conclude that he's an obnoxious kid?
I have no idea what the future has in store for us with this asshole Autism in our lives, and quite frankly, I try not to imagine, but yesterday I feel like I got a small glimpse into the future.
Don't know how I feel about that.