Close Enough to Care

Posted by on Oct 4, 2011 | 4 comments

Close Enough to Care

They say small children unleash their anxieties and frustrations on those closest to them.  A two-year-old could be a dream child all morning at daycare, then come home and spend the next hour screaming bloody murder at mama.  A four-year-old can play all afternoon in preschool, never losing his smile, then tantrum to shake the walls for daddy on the way home.  An autistic almost-six-year-old can work all day in school, barely taking a break to play (his choice), and tear down the very foundations upon his arrival at three o’clock.

I am used to this.  All of my children have done it, and I remind myself it is because they feel safe and secure with me, enough to put down the “happy kid” facade.  Jack, especially, has it down to a science.  Even as a baby, when we would keep him out until all hours (because he didn’t sleep until three or four am), he would smile and laugh and have a wonderful time wherever we were.  That is, until we crossed the threshold into our home.  The door would close, and Happy Jack disappeared, replaced by Screamy Jack.  Screamy Jack raged for hours, pretty much in symmetric relation to how long we’d been out.  If we went on vacation, he hung around for a week after we returned.

Screamy Jack only likes to be around immediate family, though.  Screamy Jack needs the love and support and freedom to vent his frustrations, and only Mama or Daddy will do for that.  Actually, it’s usually only Mama who gets the pleasure of his company.  Jack has never “acted out” with anyone but myself, my husband, or one of his therapists/aides. Until today.

Contemplative Jack

We have never had “family friends” who lived nearby.  My husband and I have friends, some of them have children, and none of them have ever been within walking distance, mainly because we previously lived in a very non-kid-friendly area of a not-too-kid-friendly city.  We now live in a neighborhood and region teeming with children, and we were bound to meet some of them, and their parents, eventually.   We met Team Hartman (we’re Team Baskin) at the playground near our house.  They have three boys very close in age to ours, and we clicked with the mama and daddy.  A family match made in heaven.

We have had playdates with Team Hartman, birthday parties, BBQ’s, and all of the things you’d expect from neighbors who are also friends. Our kids are even in school together now that Jack has officially transferred.  I know it’s what folks do every day, everywhere, but it’s new to us, and we’re enjoying it.

We even go look at cows and corn together

My husband has a new job with daytime hours, so Mama Hartman has, on occasion, brought Jack home from school with her son.  For some reason Jack calls her his “daycare lady,” even though her care really only entails meeting him outside of class, a few minutes of playtime at the school playground, spirited conversation between Jack and her seven-year-old on the way home, and depositing him on our doorstep.

Today, Mama Hartman decided to stop off at our neighborhood playground for a bit on the way home.  Jack is always exhausted after school and I rarely take him to play in the afternoons because of that, but I figured since he was already out and about it couldn’t hurt.  A lot of lessons were learned today.

Jack loves Mama H, and I know the feeling is mutual.  That is the only explanation I have for why, after some good playtime, Jack lost it.  He fell apart.  He crumbled completely and laid himself bare.  She was at the playground by herself with her own three children, the youngest, at two, has his own evil alter ego shown mainly to her.  And she had Jack, or should I say, Screamy Jack.  He did not want to leave the playground.  He did not want to stop throwing things.  He did not want her to take an alternate route home (the park is 3 blocks from us).  He threatened, he bargained, he screamed, he raged, he cried.

He trusted her enough to let himself go.

Several things went through my mind when she showed up on my doorstep with him, frazzled a bit but still smiling.  First, it dawned on me that there have been only a handful of occasions in Jack’s six years that we have let him out of our sight with someone other than a teacher or therapist.  Secondly, I wondered if this woman, who I consider a friend, would ever dare take him anywhere but straight home ever again.  And third, I realized that there must be a pretty strong level of trust and love there for him to let his guard down and be vulnerable like that with her.

Mama H has spent enough time around Jack to know when he’s in distress, even if she’s not had to deal with it directly.  Thankfully, they were close enough to home that I could have come for him if necessary.  I didn’t need to. She got him into the car, endured his abuse on the way home, and delivered him safely.  I know our friendship may have been tested this afternoon, but I also know I now trust her more than ever.

Once home, Jack apologized for his behaviour and gave her a hug.  When pressed as to why he melted down, he said he was “afraid there would be trouble, but there wasn’t.”  For some reason he felt fear – maybe he thought she’d tell me he’d acted out and he would be in trouble, maybe he didn’t recognize our neighborhood from a different street and thought he’d be lost.  Whatever it was vanished on our doorstep.

Mama H has expressed an interest in learning about autism, and I’m guessing she got a crash course today.   I know that as Jack gets older more people will come into his life, and more people will gain his trust.  I can only hope they all treat him with the same respect and love.

It's a big world out there

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  • I can relate to the keeping it all together and letting loose at home.  Both my kids seem to do that.  My four year old is in a 4 hour pre-school program this year and she does great until we get home and then she is just plain worn out and tired. 

    We have close friends that we do some camping and traveling with.  Our kids have gotten so comfortable with this family, that they are not afraid to let loose when we are all together.Sounds like Mama Hartman is a keeper.

  • Floortime Lite Mama

    Love the way you are thinking about it- in terms of learning from it  – Mama H sounds awesome 
    I think a lot of kids do that 

  • Oh this made me cry. I love it so. I love your kid. You. And that mysterious woman who i can only make assumptions is a rockstar. 😉 It is the most remarkable thing to have someone else GET your son and your son be more than happy to go ape shit pissy in front of someone else when you aren’t there. That is seriously trust and love. What a lucky girl she is to be that special to that boy. <3

  • Dluvscoke

    I understand your thinking and I’m glad you two families found each other. 🙂