Monday, August 6, 2012

When People Don't Like Your Kid.

I had to do something incredibly difficult yesterday. It was heartbreaking, actually.
It was definitely one of the toughest parenting moments I have encountered to date.
Here's how it began:
9 yo: Mom, did you talk to our friends about a sleepover?
Me: I sure did, we're working out details. I let you know what happens.
11 yo: How come they have sleepovers and friend visits all the time and I never do?

This is where I had to keep from crying, mostly because I was driving at the time.
My heart squeezed, and I truly did not want to answer him.
I thought for a few moments, trying to organize thoughts and make sure that what I said was as gentle and loving as possible.
It's incredibly difficult to come up with a kind way to tell someone that "People don't like you"
I have come up with 'reasons' for him for a few years. "There just aren't any boys your age at church", "Well, your friend's parents are so much busier than we are." "I just don't know that boys' parents". "Our house is so small, with all the people that live in it, that it's difficult to have people over, so folks think we are unfriendly." (And, may I point out, THAT *is* true).

But mostly, the worst, most terrible part is, that parents don't like my son.
Actually, if he were someone else's son, I might not like him, either.
He struggles with anxiety, coupled with a form of highly functional autism.
What this means to parents, is that when there is a disagreement or a misunderstanding, he becomes angry. When adults cut him off, he believes that they just aren't interested in the truth, and he becomes indignant. His face will turn red, and he will cry, perhaps stomp a foot, or yell out in frustration.
He used to get into trouble for hitting other children. In fact, when we were in the discussion phase of discipline during these times, it generally turned out the the other child had called him a jerk or stupid or some such thing.  That didn't excuse his behavior. Not by a long shot. We will not take our anger out on other people! The problem here, is that because he lashed out, the other child was never spoken to about name calling or whatever it was, because no one really knew, and even if they did, there was such an uproar over the physical attack, that the offending remark was never addressed.
Not only this, when it would happen at church, especially, every single helpful man would circle around and pepper my son with 'wise words' and tell us, his parents, who live with the boy, how to handle the situation.
Do you suppose that eased the child's anxiety? Nope. Not one bit. Did it ramp it up? Sure did! And Mom's, too. In fact, I came sort of unglued at the well meaning group at one point. There were apologies all around. They weren't trying for judgmental, they were trying for helpful. It just...wasn't

So, a few years later, here we sit. Because he is still learning how to handle life, the same as any other kid, *and* is learning how to have some control over out bursts and reigning in passionate behavior such as anger, he doesn't have friends, really.

I wouldn't want to deal with those issues in someone else's child. It's difficult. There are things that you only know about him by living with him, that might assist in diffusing a situation.  There is discipline that must be repeated over and over.

I mentioned, in another post about my son, that he has come such a long way in the last 5 to 6 years. This is true BUT, he's bigger now. He's pre-teen. Hormones are changing, he notices more and more that people steer clear of him. He is truly beginning to have heartache over his friendless status.  And I die inside every time he asks about it.
And so, I finally told him. I told him that people don't understand. That we can not explain to every parent of every potential friend how things are with him. That it isn't their job to make their children be his friend. That he must first learn how to be a friend.

I want to put him in my lap, cuddle him, and tell him that his dad and I will be his friends. That we will always be there for him. That he doesn't need to every think about being along.
But, that would be a lie.
Please, pray with me that we will teach him well, to use the tools at his disposal to be calm, to be kind, to be gentle, and to know when to walk away and let some offense or issue go.
Please, pray with me that he will be rewarded with good friends. That others will come to love my son.


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