Rock Climbing.

When we arrived, we’d been in town for four hours.  At first, we had things to do, places to be.  But the last hour or so before we got there, we were looking for ways to keep ourselves busy.

It was 102 degrees.  I tried to keep him hydrated.  He tried to do his part.  We stayed cool on the inside of places.  The last “to do” before arriving was to stop at Target and get some socks.  I was in flip flops.  He was in crocs.  I’d forgotten the socks.  To go home for socks was out of the question.  30 miles home, 30 miles back, and home again?  No thanks.

My son could not bounce without socks, or so I’d heard.  White crews with green trim.  That would match.  $5.99 for six pairs of socks was good.

See? Good socks.

It was ten minutes after three when I started the drive over.  The party started at three but the later we were, the less chance of unpleasantness, I thought.  Always trying to maintain control.

We’d never been there before, but I’d heard about it.  As we drove, I thought how funny it was that:  “Wacky Tacky”, “SkyZone”, “Bounce U” were part of my vocabulary.  Places I would never have gone without my bright-eyed, sweet child.

We got out of the car.  Ahead of us, was an elderly Hispanic woman, struggling to walk, with a younger woman who appeared to be her daughter.  Both were carrying presents toward the entry.  My son, ever the gentleman, walked right in front of the older woman, as she struggled to make it through the door.  I apologized and excused him.  Her daughter held the door for us, and the four of us entered together.

The lobby was empty, save the four of us, and the girl at the counter.  There were two brightly colored doors ahead, and what appeared to be a vending machine with fluff whipping around a large, round glass sphere with lights. I wasn’t paying much attention, other than to note that was presently my son’s location.  I was busy filling out a waiver for him.  It was unnaturally quiet.

I asked about socks.  Yes, he needed them.  Happily, I had packed them into my purse.  She said we could put them on through the red door.

Inside were four inflatable bouncy areas.  Two were large slides, one with a simple, climbing “staircase” of sorts.  The other was higher and had a fake “rock climbing” wall to get to the top and walk over to a slide.  On the opposite wall were a “boxing ring” and a “shooting room” with launchers for shooting soft balls back and forth over a barrier.

My son headed straight for the shooters. One girl from his school helped him load balls.

Next, were the slides.  Easily enough he climbed the staircase and slid down.  I knew “J”‘s mother and we began to talk.  Always, however, I had an eye on the dyspraxic child I call my own.

He’s on the right coming down sideways – easy slide…

My son sat with “J” for the entire school year.  She is very caring with my son, almost in a motherly way.  Now that my son was in “summer camp”, only 3-4 children from his class remained, including “J”.  The rest were strangers.

I had heard that “P” was not a “nice” boy.  “J’s mom” shared that “P” had said something  “mean” about my son that “J” did not like.  I didn’t ask what it was.  She didn’t offer details.  She said that her daughter told “P” off.  J’s moms point was to express that her daughter was ‘looking out for’ my son.  And that point could not be denied.  She is a sweet girl.

But J’s mom didn’t get how this would affect me.

I was now officially where I never wanted to be.  Someone was making fun of my son’s disability.  This was my induction into that world.  The one I’d read about from other moms.  The one I’ve dug my heels in to believe would not touch my son – yet.

My son never told me.  I don’t know that he could tell me if he wanted to.  My heart was pierced right through.  I felt it fall into my stomach where it burned.  I was sick.  J’s mom was smiling.  She hadn’t a clue.

I turned my attention to watch my son (to keep my emotions in check).  He kept climbing nearly to the top of the rock wall.  When just a couple feet from the top, his foot would slip and he would slide back down to the bottom.

That white speck at the top is my son. This is where he would let go and slide back to the bottom.

I think from watching me, J’s mom encouraged her daughter to go and help my son across to the other side.  J did just that.  Her encouragement made the difference.  My son made it to the top and happily slid down the big slide.  Then, he did it again and again.

Down the big slide!

I smiled on the outside.  Inside, I wanted to pick my son up, and take him home.  Keep him with me.  Never let him outside again.  Never let him be hurt by another child.  I wanted to kiss and hug him and wall out the hurt.

But I had no socks on.

I realized, on the way home, that in the same way I couldn’t go up the bouncy house and help him over the rock wall, I knew I could not stop the world from hurting him.  I can’t lock him in a tower.

I have to stay outside, watching him clear the barriers on his own.  If I isolate him, he will never climb the barriers alone.

Climbing another rock wall in the “dark” party room with disco lights…

In that moment, I saw my role to cheer my son on from the ground, outside the inflatable walls.  I saw the invisible barrier that separated us.  I was made to watch another help him, give him strength and confidence to get over the rock wall himself.

In the end, he did it.  Victory was all his own.  He broke the barrier with the help of a friend.  Ironic for the child who cannot socialize like the others?  No.  I must just learn that, even with differences, he is a wonderful human being.  He will make friends on his own.  They will help him.

At the bottom of another slide – disco lighting style.

And so, the “P”s of the world will be there, putting up the slippery rock walls.  But so will the peers that hold out their hands to help my son cross over.

As for me, I will always be standing there, a different kind of rock. at the bottom of the slides of life,

with my naked feet,

ready to walk over hot coals, to carry my son home when the day is done.  I just have to step back sometimes and let him grow.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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17 Responses to Rock Climbing.

  1. Lisa says:

    I loved your metaphor. It is so very true.
    I also know that knife through the heart feeling when you find out that your child is being made fun of, just because of their disability. ((Hugs))

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks, Lisa. I suppose after the initial disappointment and feeling of helplessness, we hurt all over again when we hear it the next time. I don’t know yet.

      Nothing really changes, does it? Is it just human nature to hurt the weak to feel some fleeting sense of power? When will all of us learn that feeling powerful at someone else’s expense is wrong? Often, I see it in a flippant, completely unthinking manner. Tossed in for effect without thought. It’s a shame. Thanks for the hugs.

  2. I’ve thought about this too. Wondering how I will handle it. I guess it depends on the situation but I do take solice in the fact that my son’s younger brother looks out for him. I have a feeling that a day is going to come when I tell my son “good job sticking up for your brother” …AFTER picking him up from the principal’s office. lol

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Stephanie. It’s got to bring some peace of mind to know a sibling is watching out for your son. (I’ll keep my fingers crossed about the principal’s office- 😉 )! We have our full time, one on one aid and his friends that care, so I should feel a little peace too. It’s just that mama thing that wants to protect him that I have to learn to moderate in myself!

  3. Beautifully put. We haven’t dealt with anything like this yet and I dread the day we do. I think you did a great job of staying cool even if it was just on the outside.

  4. Lizbeth says:

    This is the part that will test your belief in humanity and make you want to run for the hills and become a hermit sometimes but I firmly believe that while there will be some horrible parents raising horrible little children, there will also be parents who raise their kids with kindness, compassion and with a moral center. Hang on to those people and teach T how to deal with the rest.

  5. It’s a long climb, but there are a lot of us out there cheering the kids on… just look at Holly Robinson Peete. He will get to where he is meant to be Karen — and he’ll do it because there are so many people who do care. With 1:88, there are going to be a lot more people who understand autism, who experience it, and who know that it makes T no less of a wonderful person. Those others? We don’t want them around anyhow.

  6. Flannery says:

    So nicely put. I often fight the urge to intervene, especially since I don’t know if my son will handle things appropriately. But lately I’m learning to step back. I’ve found that even from the sidelines, I can shoot a very disappointing look at a unkind playmate. It’s so hard to just let go, when we want to shield them from all the hurts.

  7. It’s a very good analogy. and it is very hard to watch and think of others that might be nasty, but I try to remember 2 things. one is that often it is me that is more hurt than my Son, sometimes the comments and whispers behind his back are things he doesn’t notice.- I am dreading when he goes to High School as I think we might experience more direct comments. The other thing is to try and focus on the people who are providing the support and encouragement. I always try to tell myself there are more nice people in the world than there are bullies. That looked like a fantastic place for kids to have fun. x

    • solodialogue says:

      Yes, I’m thinking the same about who is hurting – probably me more than him. The truth is really that there ARE more good people than the rotten apples that stand out – we just hear about them more since they “stand out”. And yes, that place was a good workout and a lot of fun for the little guy! 🙂 xo

  8. seventhvoice says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous and poignant post. We do have to learn how to stand back and let our lovely ones learn how to begin to climb their own walls. Yet this is so much easier said than done. I’ve always said that having a child with Autism has been like living life with your heart constantly beating outside of your chest. As parents we are so emotionally exposed. No matter how strong we think we are, a few little words can pierce us in places that others will never, ever know. Perhaps that is why every barb, whether intentional or otherwise, leaves it’s mark.

  9. Very touching, and fantastic analogy…..moving and interesting. Great job. 🙂

  10. Beautiful, I felt it right with you. He is awesome, and while there will always Ps, thank goodness he attracts the Js too. I know how hard it is to stand back, I know how amazing it is to see them climb all by themselves. ((hugs)).

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