I just had one of those moments, you know the one where you’re sure the whole world is looking at you and not in a good way?
“I shouldn’t have said I’ll attack you with my knife, should I?” Eli asks me innocently as we walk back to the house. “Because that was threatening them and they wouldn’t know that my knife was the little plastic one I got from the show and they might have thought that I had a real knife and that I was trying to hurt them.”
“Yes honey” I answer, letting the words rush out of me like a rapidly deflating balloon, I often think of myself as a rapidly deflating balloon.
Earlier I had been trying to take a shower but the ever present Things kept cropping up to prevent me and by now it was the middle of the day. The kids were bored. They were beginning to make the quiet rumbling growl that creeps up a lions throat when he feels he has lazed around in the sun too long. I was still going to take a shower, so when Lani called out “Can we go to the park?” I said “Yeah ok.”
This was a mistake.
It’s just over the back fence.
I’ll be quick in the shower.
They can go by themselves.
This was a mistake.
Not because the park was too far or that I believe all kids their age need to be accompanied by an adult at all times but because my son just isn’t ready yet. It’s funny how I forget that sometimes. I remember the first time I heard those words. I had completely accepted Eli’s diagnosis of Aspergers and yet I kept asking his therapist “why does he blah blah blah when other kids blah blah blah and when they blah blah blah why does he always flip out?” She turned to me one time and said “You’re trying to get him to play with these other kids by himself, he’s just not ready yet. He needs you to be nearby, to be involved so that if he is lost by the conversation you can decipher or if the contact or volume is getting to much you can intervene. He will be able to do all this eventually, he’s just not ready yet.”
Thankfully I had already rinsed my hair.
I really hate showers, it’s like they are programed to trigger disasters.
“I’M COMING!” I’m seriously considering becoming a filth incrusted hermit and claiming it’s all in the name of art.
Lani on the other side of the door was in a bit of a flap. “Eli’s gone crazy and the man in the park said we have to find his parents and make him leave.”
“It’s Ok, I’ll deal with it” I reassure her while desperately hunting for a pair of shoes. She turns to head back to the park and without thinking opens the door wide releasing our two nutcases in fur to race ecstatically through the backyard to the back fence and out, towards the group of already ticked off parents. Great, just what I need.
So if first impressions are all important this is the one the cross people got of me: barely dressed with wet hair spider webbed across my face tearing along behind a mad spaniel dog whose loose jowls, billowing out with the wind, gave him the appearance of King Charles with the face of the Joker. It’s probably not the best impression I’ve even made.
A dad collected up the fur ball and held him till I caught up.
“Are you the mother of those kids?” he asked as I gripped the joyful animals collar. Get that goofy grin off your face dog this is not the time.
“Yes, I know I’m taking him home” I manage while gulping down air.
“Yeah ok,” he starts an obviously well rehearsed speech“It’s just that the things he was saying, they weren’t right, he scared all the kids, it’s just not on”
“I’m gonna take him home” I repeated
The guy wouldn’t leave it alone “Oh right just the way he was going on just wasn’t normal, you really….”
“He’s got Autism and I’m. taking. him. home. ok?” I may have been a little abrupt
That was so not the way to make friends, I really wish they were people I would never see again and that they weren’t in our park every Saturday till the end of soccer season.
Lani fills me in on the details as I walk toward the almost deserted play equipment. Almost except for my son sitting happily on top of the monkey bars swinging his legs.
“You have to come home now Eli”
“Why?” he asks genuinely shocked
“You scared all the other kids away, they are waiting with their parents till you go”
“I didn’t mean to”
“I know but you said you had a knife and that you were going to get it and you got a bit to close to their faces, anyway you were chasing them and they got scared so now you’re coming home with me.”
“I know” Says Eli like he’s suddenly thought of something wonderful “how about I don’t go on the computer for punishment.”
“Lets just get home.”
Walking back to the house it suddenly clicks for him, how the other kids couldn’t have known that he was talking about a toy knife, how they couldn’t have known that he would never dream of hurting them, how they probably didn’t realise he was just playing an adventure game like Mincraft where everyone runs around showing weapons.
“Oh no” he says horrified “I wasn’t very nice, they wouldn’t have known that I wasn’t attacking them. I should go and tell them, shouldn’t I, I should go and tell them I wouldn’t hurt them and I’m sorry.”
Really, do we need to do this you don’t think your poor mothers embarrassed enough? but I look at his face and he’s genuine and he’s right, he needed to do this however odd it’s going to make us look otherwise the guilt would stress him out for the rest of the day. So we drop the dog off and head back. The playground is swarming with kids by the time we get there. A few look at him anxiously as he approaches but Eli scales the fence so he’s high and noticeable and waves his arm at them.
“Hey” he calls “I’m harmless and I’m sorry for scaring you”
They all just look at him. Well that was awkward I should have coached him on what to say in his apology.
oh boy this is bad. I’m just about to grab him off the fence when one boy turns to him and mimics his arm waving and calls nicely.
We walk back to the house. “Eli, did you know you’d scared the kids?”
“Did you want to scare them?”
“No.” he says emphatically “and even, one boy said ‘I’m not scared of you’, and I said that’s good.”
So, still not ready yet.