Sometimes it gets lonely on the playground

I have experienced normalcy to its capacity having already seen my two daughters through their most formative years. Now teens and almost grown I reflect, perhaps too much, on my son's current elementary years.

When Riley was born he was instantly initiated into his sisters' realm of friends, playgroups, and activities.  He never even had to worry about having friends.  As the girls got older and the barbies were banished to the attic - the tea parties, make-believe forts, and all those playdate friends began to vanish. As Riley grew older his oddities and social quirkiness bloomed to it's full glory and new labels were introduced to us as casually as one would order " one caramel macchiato please", such as Autism Spectrum, ADD, Sensory Integration Disorder, OCD, and anxiety.  Oh, and let's not forget about Epilepsy which latched on to Riley when he was seven months old.  So this I get, friends can only be so understanding right?  Why does your son always hit when he's mad? Why won't Riley talk to  me? Why won't he play with me?  Well, let's see.....where to begin?   How about my son doesn't know how to play.  When all of the other kids are playing jump rope, tag, or duck duck goose ~ my son is running around aimlessly all by himself.  To add salt to wound, Riley is very verbal and high functioning so he realizes that he is all by himself on the playground and he knows that he struggles socially but he can't help himself.  Hence the frustrations and meltdowns that follow.  Riley is hardly ever invited to birthday parties or heaven forbid to a friend's house after school.  The ironic beauty of it is that this hard accepted fact bothers me more than Riley.  

Sometimes I fleetingly wish that Riley would look "different" so that people would "get" him.  I wonder if it would be easier?  Maybe people wouldn't stare at him so much when he is freaking out or having a meltdown in public.  Or clapping and singing really loud in the movie theater?  Yep, that was my kid!  My son looks perfectly "normal" and it confuses the hell out of people.  I'm used to the stares and I haven't had to bitch slap anyone yet but I will tell you frankly that the biggest offenders are other moms.  Glances of "what a brat" and darts of "wow, that mom is doing a crappy job raising her son".  I feel every silent stab.  If I could convey anything without sounding cliche, it would simply be ~ one can never be too sure.  So, the next time you see an adorable young boy about 4'9 and 115 lbs. clapping and singing in Walmart, please just smile.  And when you see that same boy in the aisle or checkout melting down faster than a ice cube on a skillet, please just nod as if you understand.  And understand this ~ going to the store (or anywhere for that matter) with a child who has a number of mental challenges takes heroine effort and strength.  One has to coach, anticipate, stay calm and distract all while trying to feed her family of 5 within budget.

Having Riley has taught me so much and I've finally reached a place where I can say my "perfect" looking boy is broken, broken in the social sense, and be ok with it.  On the inside he is fragmented, chaotic, and like one giant puzzle.  But of course it doesn't matter, Riley is and always will be a blessing. 

Most days are pretty good, fantastic and dare I say even glorious but sometimes it does get lonely on the playground.


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