Got that? Good. We’re done here.
No? Let me break it down for you. Children misinterpret words all the time. If you’ve buzzed around here at all, you know that my children are particularly good at this. Today was a case in point.
In the bathtub tonight, Sweetgirl informed me that she wanted to play with her “hippotonomous”. What’s that now? She further confused me by asking where her “hippomamatous” was. I handed over the hippopotamus with eyes clenched shut and hoped for the best. It all worked out…
On a very serious note… Sweetboy’s Autism isn’t evident outwardly. It’s in the inward moments, the safety of his home and the love contained within our walls, that most anyone would be able to observe him engaging in Autistic behaviors. Once in a while, though, he encounters a situation out in public that, as processed later on at home, reveals the depths to which his amazing brain will go to work through something. We encountered that today as he wrapped up a week of two different camp experiences. One, earlier this week, was okay. The other, today’s experience, was traumatic. But, for an entirely different reason than I ever could have, ever would have, imagined.
I picked Sweetboy and a friend up from camp and asked how it went. Friend enthusiastically plugged camp. Sweetboy was oddly silent. His usual response to any question asking for his thoughts on a particular experience is to arrange his thumb and forefinger into the “I squish your head” action and say, “I kinda sort liked it.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ask The Google about “The Kids in the Hall”. I won’t wait, though, because you’ll be laughing till you pee. And if you already know what I’m talking about, I heart you.)
At that moment, though, I got absolutely nothing from him. And I wondered about it. But I let him be. And he played happily with Friend at home for the next hour. We went to drop off Friend and then visit with other friends for a short while. We didn’t arrive back home until dinner time, but as soon as we walked in the door of our house, Sweetboy asked if I could just go upstairs and snuggle with him on his bed. Just him and me. He never has to ask me twice.
As we snuggled, he started crying. You see, it would seem that today, at camp, there was a child there with Down’s Syndrome. A child that he didn’t know and wasn’t expecting. As he began to cry and recount the day, Sweetboy explained that this boy was older and bigger than him and that he really “creeped me out, mama.” People, my heart is breaking for my child. He works so hard to make faces fit into neatly structured frames he has constructed in his mind. Frames that don’t change. Frames that help him make sense of facial expressions and people. And he knows that there are children whose faces don’t neatly fit into the frames he’s constructed for people’s faces – but, this? This unexpected, unstructured face? He struggled to make sense of the child’s place in his neatly ordered world. It was at this point that he said, “He’s not like J (our friend with Down’s). I like J. He’s not like him. And it just creeped me out. And that makes me feel bad inside.” And he cried. And I cried with him. And for him. Then, I just hugged him. And hoped the hug would mop up the tears.
Let me interject here with two things which I need to state before we go on. One, we have very dear friends that have a child with Down’s Syndrome. We eat meals with them, play with them; they are in our lives. Two, Sweetboy has been exposed to lots of other children with multiple disabilities through his years of therapies and integrated classroom experiences. He’s either never noticed the differences or he’s not been affected by them. Today, he was.
And then, almost like the breath of God blowing away our tears, there was this. As he cried, he explained that he didn’t want to tell Other Friend how he felt when he was there because, “It would be gospeling…”. I was about to correct him when he added, “and I know I shouldn’t gospel.” Sweet Moses! I giggled. He balked. I asked him if he meant “gossip”. We all know he meant gossip, right? Then he laughed. And all was right with his world again.
Oh, sweet child… Sometimes, there is no answer. But, a gospeling hippotonomous will do the trick in a pinch. Oh, yes indeed.