I have a cousin who lives just over an hour away from us. His Grandma and my Grandad are brother and sister. He’s less than a year older than I am and for many years as kids, we lived exactly next door to each other and spent much time playing cards and wrestling and swimming and eating banana splits with vinegar and climbing trees and falling out of trees together. His wife is lovely and his kids (7 and 5 yrs old) are lovlier. There really is no good reason why we don’t see them on a regular basis but the reality is that we only get together about 3 times a year. Both he and I keep promising to change that so last Saturday the kids and I set off on our one hour drive.
CC stayed home to recuperate from his week alone with the kids and at the last minute, I invited Nanas to come along for the day and she agreed. (Yay!)
I should’ve known everything wouldn’t go smoothly when Jay threw a 10 minute tantrum in the car because he had seen (what I think was) a picture of a duck but neither Nanas nor I saw it and acknowledged it.
In typical Deenie fashion, I didn’t pay too much attention to that outburst in the car. I assumed that once we got to my cousins house, and Jay started running around with the other kids, things would be fine. (I always assume things will get better)
I was only kind of right.
For the first part of the trip things were going well. The three boys and one girl were happy to play in the house. I even got dolled up in sparkly jewelry courtesy of my little niece. Both my cousin and his wife are veterinarians so their house is full of animals and animal stuff so Jay was happy with that. There are also Bey Blades and Ninjago’s etc that 6 and 7 year old boys like.
Everyone eventually made their way outside. Most of kids began with rolling down hills and playing sword fight while Jay entertained himself with the neighbours dog.
Then balls, pogo sticks, bicycles, wagons and scooters popped up. As did about 6 other neighbourhood kids.
For a while things were still going well … It was fun watching the kids play together outside.
Around 1pm, we went to the back yard for a hot dogs and hamburgers lunch. This is where things began to go down hill. Jay just wouldn’t listen. He kept running back to the front even though we told him he was not to go there alone. He knew he was being disobedient, but he did it anyway. Then he got mad when I made him stay with us. Not fun.
When he wasn’t trying to escape to the front yard, Jay was rolling around in dirt and dumping handfuls of dirt onto the top of his head.
My 5 year old niece asked her mom if Jay was crazy. Ouch!
What do you say to that? To a 5 year old.
When everyone settled down to eat, I told my cuz that Jay wouldn’t eat any of the prepared food but he paid no attention to me. Bless his heart – He treated Jay like he would any other child. He talked to him the way he would any other child. He offered him tater tots and hot dogs and rice krispy treats. But he didn’t get mad when Jay refused them all.
After lunch we went back to the front yard where the kids resumed their playing and some of them began climbing a tree.
Then somewhere between playing with the dogs and rolling down a hill, Jay decided that he should have sole custody of the wagon. Not only that … He thought he should boss the other children around and give them orders about pulling him around. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well and … Cue the crying and screaming.
I tried to get him to share but he was not interested in that. I tried to redirect him to another activity. That didn’t fly. I had to physically remove him from the wagon as he flailed and cried. I took him inside for a time out. After he calmed down we went back outside but he went right back to his wagon hogging.
To the other kids credit, they were very good and they seemed more confused than anything about Jay’s behavior. They tried to reason with him but … yeah … no.
One boy quietly asked me why Jay was behaving like that and why he was acting like a baby. The words got caught in my throat. I was at a loss as to how to explain it to an 8 year old. I just told him that sometimes Jay has a hard time and I thanked him for being so patient.
How lame. That didn’t help anyone. The boy stood there looking at me waiting for more but that was all that came out. I felt awful. Like I should have done a better job but I didn’t know what to say – For the 2nd time that day. Also, I really wanted to just get back to Jay and remove him from the wagon so someone else could enjoy it for a change.
I know I need to get myself together and figure out how I can and will explain Jay to other children. They really want to know and understand. And they will ask.
The day wound down and we started saying our goodbyes. My cousin asked when we’d be back and I told him soon. I wasn’t sure that I meant it though. After the way Jay had behaved that day, I didn’t know if I’d be ready to go there again soon. I said something about being sorry that Jay was so grumpy and that he has good days and bad days and today was a bad day. My cousin in all his awesomeness responded with … “He had a bad day??? He was fine except for a couple moments. I really loved that you guys came and you should definitely come back soon. Like, in a couple weeks or so.”
I could tell he meant it 100%.
I punched him in the arm because if I did or said anything else, I would’ve cried. I really wanted to tell him that I appreciate him accepting and loving my little family just as we are. I wanted to tell him that when I 1st started reading blogs about autism, one of the things I remember reading was that there will be people in your life who will surprise you by not being able to cope with your new life and there will be people who you feel closer to than you ever expected. I wanted to tell him that he is one of the few people who has surprised me in the way that he makes us feel welcome and loved and accepted and comfortable. I always knew he had a good heart, but I never saw this coming.