Two mothers each with sons going to the same after school program.
Each son is impatient for the program to begin.
There are differences when you look closer.
One son is having a really hard time waiting. He is beginning to cry, to not get upset when he sees that the teacher is still not in the activity room. He looks over and sees my son doing art on his iPad and he’s asking his mother for his own tablet. She has kept his at home because he has trouble transitioning to his activity and stopping using the device. He does not like this answer because his chosen tool for self calm gone. He looks over at my son again. He starts banging his head against the wall and crying. He doesn’t like what his Mom is saying in their first language so he goes to the bench that his Mom and my son are sitting and begins shaking it and pushing it. She is pleading with him that he could just use her phone for a few minutes and telling him that the instructor will be here very soon. He is having a hard time processing what she said. Things are starting to feel like they could escalate so she quickly tells him it’s time to go outside and get some fresh air. He can’t stay inside and get upset.
Meanwhile across the hall, the other mother with her son has just asked where the instructor is and comments that it’s 5 o’clock and art class should be starting. The Mom quickly loses patience, turns around and tells him that he should just be quiet and they are on time. Before he can say anything else she tells him that he needs to get a watch and he should take responsibility for getting to places on time. He should not rely on her to push him out the door and get going to activities. Her voice is full of stress and she is escalating and venting that he’s whining because the instructor is not there.
I did not hear any whining I just heard him sound dejected that the instructor isn’t in the room and he’s there on time. Maybe the Mom has heard him get upset before and just has lost all patience because she knows where this is going and it’s been a long day already.
But sitting there with my own son playing his iPad while his younger sister is doing her ballet activity I think about how if I didn’t have the iPad how my sons anxiety would start to climb because he’s not doing an activity and he’s having to sit and wait.
Waiting is hard.
Meanwhile my son is trying hard hard to just keep his mind in the art he’s doing while 3 Moms and 2 sons are having different challenging situations bringing so much stress to the hallway at the community centre.
It makes me think about how we’re three mothers each having sons that are the same age and handling things differently. I need to write these observations down not for judgemental reasons but to think about how to do things differently. Let’s face it parenting is hard and we have all been in these situations on days when we are at the of our rope.
My son is not playing on his iPad but he’s actually sitting and doing art and creating stories and adding his own words etc. It makes him happy to create and takes his mind away from other families transitions and waiting for his sister.
Another mom is trying to teach her son that he can’t have his tablet while he’s waiting if he’s not going to give it up when his activity starts and that’s why she didn’t bring it. She is willing to handle the stress to teach him. It is not easy and she is trying to hide tears as she heads outside to reset everything.
Another Mom tells her son to just get a watch and take some responsibility for his life.
Later I find that my suspicions are correct that the boy that was having trouble self-regulating is Autistic like my son. His art helper that the art instructor has in the class to assist him in one to one support has not shown up. He needs to self calm and do this art class with a big change so he can do what he loves. After the Mom came out of the art class my son asked if her son was okay and she said he was. I asked her if she was okay and she said yes but sometimes it’s hard because of Autism. I told her that my son was too and he said “Hi”. We all had a nice chat and shared experiences and resources. She told Johnny her son wants his tablet and saw his iPad and got upset. My son said “it’s hard but he has to learn to stop using his device when you ask and not get upset then he could have his. It’s hard.”
It was nice making a connection with another parent of an Autistic child and having my son share a little and hear about other challenges. His experience is different and the same at times but he hears he is not alone in Autism. The Mom and I make a connection and remember again as other families come and go around us to swimming lessons that we are not alone either.
If only it could be as easy as getting our sons a wristwatch and telling them to take responsibility for their lives.