Just Let Him Be

Mr. L is getting to a point in his cognitive development where I’m learning when and how to step back. Yep, you read that right, he’s reached a point where I am learning when to let him figure some things out for himself.

I’m sure many of you are thinking, yeah that sounds like a normal teenage mile stone. But I’m not talking about how to handle friendships or jobs. I’m talking about what noises are ok to make around people, and how to keep up with other kids. I mean he’s 8, not 16.

Mr. L enjoying his popsicle and not being 16 😉

Last summer he was on the cusp of this milestone. Last summer there was a lot of him running up to other kids at parks and playgrounds, saying hi and then looking around confused and deflated when his peers would run off to play. These kids usually were not running away from him. But in general kids don’t stay put, they wander towards jungle gyms and run to play tag. Well, following along was another step he has caught onto recently and is slowly stepping into seeing how it works.

Mr. L doesn’t necessarily have the skills to follow along with a game of tag without adult help, but he is learning how to run along when kids run off to keep their play going. And that is where my grey line of being a helicopter parent is starting to blur less but hasn’t quite become black and white yet. I’m kind of in this spot of telling him, “Go play” and “Say hi” but I’m watching him and thinking to myself, “Keep up. I don’t think you should make that loud noise. I hope the other kids at best wait for him to keep up and at worst just run off. Please don’t be cruel”.

I’m trying to act casual like the other parents of kids around the same physical age, by not following along like he’s 3. But at the same time I want to stay within listening distance to keep him from doing something inappropriate, or to get after anyone who might verbally attack him. Usually kids do just run off when he starts making loud train noises or talks about Lightning McQueen just a little bit too much. In the past it’s been loser adults who think they can bully him because they are bigger, and that has never been ok. I have a pretty clear record of chewing out loser adults and “educating” them about children like mine with disabilities.

Just practicing at the shooting range

But he isn’t 3 or 5 or even 7 anymore, in fact he’s a tall 8 year old that looks like he could be 10 or 11. He’s my oldest so this is new territory, how will kids this age treat him when he makes a loud ambulance noise? Will they blatantly laugh at him and point? Because blessed or cursed he is picking up on that being mean behavior. Or will they think it’s just an odd idiosyncrasy, find it funny, and carry on playing? I know kids are both ways, so I act like I’m mostly watching my other 2 younger kids, but continue to try to keep an ear in Mr. L’s direction.

I mean, regardless he’s still 8, this is 2020 and I need to keep an eye on him to keep him safe. But I’m trying to stand back and let him figure out social cues, and the un-written, complex, rules of social interactions of the people around him. Thankfully there are enough adults who are often kind and patient with him, even when he often surprises them by starting out his interaction with them, by pointing his hand at them and asking, “Who are you?” Which isn’t really socially acceptable. I still usually jump in with a quick prompt when he tries to talk to these types of strangers, reminding him to introduce himself first, but most adults are patient enough for a short interaction with him.

And if others are blatantly rude to him, I will calmly call them out on it, because really, who has time for people who are rude to kids with special needs? Oh yeah, that’s me. I usually have that extra second and don’t mind reminding adults what their mother probably wanted them to remember 😉

Photo credit to WordPress, but I’m sure this mother would want you to mind your manners.

I just hope these communication skills are carrying over to his peer interactions. He has time to learn how to talk with adults, but it’s those kids his age where he can learn social cues, make friends, and just hopefully have some of those fun kid memories everyone wants to be able to look back on. I don’t want his childhood to be miserable or lonely. You know, one of the many worries I have as a special needs parents. One of the many thoughts I have on my endless list of concerns that I catapult into and try to wade out of every night before sleep 🙃

Social skills and social rules are tricky aren’t they?

19 comments

  1. I can hear your loving concern, how much to protect but he also needs to learn his own way 🙂

    I have learnt that there are a few cruel people in most situations but for the most part people do want to be kind … good luck with finding the balance in that juggle 🙂 And whatever happens he will always be sure of your love!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s scary watching someone finally taking those learning wobbles on their own, but I believe you have a good sense of when is the right time to let it happen. And if he needs backup, I’m sure he knows he can count on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can relate to this post 100%! My son is now 14 and everything you said really hit home. I have had to correct other adults who, at first look, seem very sophisticated and mature until they get very upset on their children’s behalf because of something my son said to their kid and they charge him and scream at him and set him into a very aggressive meltdown. It’s horrible, and unbelievable that adults just walk around with this kind of attitude, but it happens. It’s also so amazing to watch my son develop and grow around other kids his age (he prefers a little younger as they play at him level more) but a little nerve wracking too! Thanks for sharing and maybe check out my blog if you get a chance, I too blog about my experience raising a child on the spectrum.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your eldest son reminds me a lot of my son, who is now 12 but looks 17/18. He always looked to kids his own height, and then them at him, and his still childlike behaviour, he probably acts like you’d expect an 8 year old, it causes confusion all round.

    He goes to a specialist autistic school, and has a great friendship group there, which is nice. But outside of school there are no friends 😟

    My daughter is also autistic, and goes to mainstream school currently, and though she has found it hard, has made some friends and even gone to play at friends houses on her own.

    As always there’s no strict rules for autism, it’s a good sign he can go up to other children, fingers crossed he makes a good friend or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to hear that your son at least has a group of friends at school. Maybe their is an outside shot you could help facilitate a hang out with one of his classmates? Ugh it’s so hard to do though, because I’m sure other parents have the same desires for their kids to have friends, but the stress to try to help can be so daunting.

      But that’s great that your daughter has been able to have play dates.

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed too for a friend or two for Mr. L 🤞🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow wow wow. This post literally is all my thoughts, feelings, fears and commentary on a daily basis about my daughter. That spot between letting them learn from trial and error and protecting them that is oh so tricky!!! It’s weird how adults have so much commentary whereas children will usually adapt.

    Liked by 1 person

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