My boy became a teenager in April. 13. Oy. With that has come the growth spurts, the pit stink, the foot stink, the breath stink – lots of stink, and the awkwardness of youth. He is maturing somewhat but I was surprised to learn last night that maybe we still have a lot of work to do. A lot. Big amounts. Oy. I thought he had the tools that he needed to find his way in social or team situations. Apparently a monkey wrench has been thrown in to the works…
We enrolled Thomas in baseball this year. The first year he has expressed any interest at all in any type of team sport. He has begun reading books. He has made the pretext of watching it on TV. Conveniently it’s never on when he thinks it’s supposed to be and couldn’t he just watch Sponge Bob or Myth Busters instead ? Not. We got him a new mitt, a new bat and a helmet. We found a team and confirmed that they could accommodate a kid with some special needs. They assured us that Thomas is not the only Aspergers in the league. Phew, I thought.
I have intentionally left this to my husband as I am not a patient mom and am hyper-vigilant about Thomas’ behavior. To me every moment is a teaching moment and I can be a fun-sucker like no other if I perceive that he is struggling a bit with behavior. Last night the husband was just wiped out. Night shift blues had taken their toll and so mom grabbed her chair, forgot the blanket, brought some reading material and we were off. Met the coach, got settled, got the lay of the land and watched my boy in action.
Now I have to give my boy props. He played just as well as the other boys. Caught some, dropped some. Hit some, missed some. Crossed home plate a few times and got a couple of runs for his team. Yeah ! I praised him like crazy. Strong, encouraging words when he got frustrated, etc. He tends to throw his hat and mitt on the ground if he makes what he perceives as a BIG mistake. From my perspective, it was no worse than some of the other kids. I have NO IDEA where he gets these high standards and inability to accept anything less than perfect. It’s a real brain scratcher. Really. Stop looking at what’s behind that curtain …
I’m noticing that the other boys give him a bit of a wide berth. I’m noticing that they try to talk to him and he ‘s not sure what to say. I’m noticing that he’s trying to be jocular with them and it’s falling a bit flat. I can’t really hear what he is saying but I can tell you I was not prepared for what I finally did hear. He was talking about dolls. DOLLS ! At freaking baseball ! Dolls. Damn. I thought we had managed that little perseveration. I thought we had imposed the limits and the appropriate times to talk about this. It never occurred to me he’d bring it up at baseball. Damn.
Now he tried to say that he was discussing manufacturing with his friend Jeff. They have been friends for years and keep coming up with kooky Abbott and Costello type ideas to make money. Thomas wants to be a toy maker. He wants to make all kinds of things but most specifically dolls. It is entirely plausible to him that he can set up some kind of factory in our basement or back yard to achieve this goal. Now while I want to be encouraging of my son’s interests, I’m not having Hasbro in my house.
As I am trying to give him some social direction as discreetly as possible I am also thinking furiously of what to do about this. I was freezing so I did a Tim’s run and got the team some Timbits. I will be THAT mom. The mom that stoops to baked good bribery to give my son a point of reference to interact with other kids. It worked. He chatted. He schmoozed. He guarded the Timbits until I told him to back off. In short, I might be that mom every week if I need to be.
So the game is over and we head home. I have given the praise – repeatedly. I then dropped the hammer. Nicely but firmly that hammer came down squarely on the head of his dolls. I forbid it. I’ve never really forbidden anything but I forbid this. It was made very clear that he will not discuss dolls at baseball. He will not discuss the manufacturing, the making, the molding, the whatever of dolls. NOT. He exclaims – But mom I was talking to Jeff ! About our toy making business ! My response ? Thomas – do you think the other boys can’t hear you ? To this he says – ohhhhh…
This is the lovely thing about Aspergers. No concept of what is outside the bubble sometimes. No concept that people can hear you and are listening even thought you are not talking to them. No idea that it might not be ok to discuss certain things. I recognize that this is a critical issue for lots of people; myself included. However, when you are already socially awkward and are already struggling to fit in, discussing dolls with boys ranging in age from 13-16 might not be advisable. So it is now clearly and completely forbidden.
So now I go in search of other things for my boy to talk about. He likes cars: I will take him to the classic car shows at our local mall. He likes movies: we just saw the Green Lantern and I will now let him see some of those movies that I’ve banned before. He likes amusement parks: off we’ll go. And I will finally admit that developing my son’s social skills requires assistance that I have previously deemed unnecessary. It’s time to bring in a professional or two who will think of other tools to give my son other than my hammer. Because as much as I occasionally like dropping the hammer, nothing is going to make my square peg of a son fit in to a round hole without causing some damage unless you have the right tools for the job.