So, here is my controversial post for the month. Be prepared.
So, last week at the campground, I had a lot of fun with the kids. We did the playground every day and the beach usually twice a day. We would watch a few movies, play some memory, fly kites, play with toys, go for walks, go fishing, read stories and anything else that we could think of.
When it was just us, everything was hunky dory. Sebastian was extremely overloaded on gluten last week, but he just got hyper and goofy. His stims came out hard- so tons of humming and he was getting obsessive about some of his toys, pictures, movies and stuff like that. But nothing super bad. A couple of meltdowns, but nothing I couldn't handle.
By day 3, however, I was starting to notice a disturbing trend whenever we did things in a public setting, like the beach or the park. Sebastian was attracting a lot of attention from other kids. And not good attention.
I know Sebastian is different and can act that way. But I was really shocked by the blatant stares and reactions he was getting from the other kids.
I am used to this from adults (I lie, I am not "used to it", you never get used to it, but I come to expect it more from adults). Kids have always seemed more tolerant. They seemed to roll with the punches more, and just accept that he was different. There have been exceptions, but the norm has been just fine.
However here, for this week, it was starting to get out of control. Or so it seemed to me. There was the day at the park. Sebastian likes the feel of the sand, or the rocks as they run through his fingers. He craves deep pressure, so he will sit on his knees until the rocks dig in, then pull his knee up and brush the rocks off his skin, one by one. He isn't loud when he does this, except for the humming. It's harmless, in every way. But this one night, as Sawyer was on the swing and pushing her, I noticed the group of kids ride up on their bikes. I waited a few moments and when the chills started heading up my spine, I stopped Sawyer's swing and walked to the other side of the play set, where Sebastian was sitting on the ground, just outside of my eyeline.
There he was, loosely circled by these kids. What disturbed me the most was the way they all stood, blatantly and overtly staring at him. Not talking, not looking out of the corner of their eyes. Just standing and staring. And slowly tightening that circle. Moving in towards him. They weren't there yet, but it was moving that way. I walked over, got my hands in his armpits and pulled him to his feet. I broke the spell and they started to drift to the slides and swings. I put my arm around him and held him tight. I gathered Sawyer and we walked away slowly. I couldn't speak, for fear that I would cry. I don't know why, but they were close to the surface. Maybe it was the feeling that I was running away from kids. Maybe it was the feeling that I had narrowly avoided a situation that could have gone bad very quickly. Maybe it was just the end to a long day of heat and sweat and I was tired. Either way, my emotions almost got the better of me.
Over the next couple of days, we kept encountering 2 boys and their father. The first encounter was a morning when the kids and I went over to fish off the dock. The oldest boy was there with his dad. When I was putting the worm on the hook and getting things ready, Sebastian, unbeknownst to me, reached into their tackle box and pulled out a lure shaped like a fish. I heard the boy telling Sebastian to put it back, that it didn't belong to him. I looked up and made him quickly put it back. I apologized to both of them, they didn't acknowledge it or me and that was that. I only stayed for a few minutes more- things felt uncomfortable, and the kids and I headed back to the trailer.
Later that day and the next, we kept running into them. At the beach the next day, I noticed them in the water. Why I noticed them, is because they were noticing Sebastian.
Again, Sebastian is very much about texture. He liked to sit in the water, on the sandy bottom and pick up handfuls of sand, to let it run through his fingers. Sometimes he throws it, and I tell him not to every time. He continues to hum, and talk to himself, acting out stories and playing. And again, he is sending off these vibes to every bully in the area, just begging them to come and check it out.
Geoff was with me that day, and I finally mentioned something to him. I watched these kids watching Bastian. They circled him like sharks, moving in closer and closer. When I would call to Sebastian and tell him to move closer to his sister or me, they followed him. That's when I pointed them out to Geoff. Geoff, while thinking that I was over-reacting, picked up on my feeling about this, and went into the water to stand with Bastian. He made it subtle, playing with Sawyer and splashing around. And these kids still didn't back off. They kept their distance, but stared and stared and stared. And I stared at them. I didn't trust myself to speak, especially when they hadn't done anything...yet.
Finally, their father showed up in his pyjama pants and high topped sneakers and called them home. Geoff left the water then and asked me if that had helped. It did, but I was still shaken by what kept happening.
So, with all of this, I started thinking about normal. What is normal? Why can't my son just be normal? Anyone special needs parent that tells you they don't ever think about that is lying. I think about how much easier it would be in my life, if he didn't stim. If he didn't hum. If he didn't think, talk and act funny. While I love my son with every single fibre of my being and I would never trade a single solitary second of my life with him, I do sometimes wish, more for his sake than for mine, that he could be normal.
Whatever the hell that means.
I was going to write more, but this has been hard enough. Maybe another time.
Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "not normal".