Last night I jolted awake at around 2 a.m. as I normally do when my husband is away on business. While I pile Bailey and Cookie in the bed with me to keep us all together and feeling secure, I feel overwhelmed at being left as the “protector” of the household. I mean, let’s face it, Cookie may annoy an intruder to tears with her yiping, but she’s certainly not going to fight one off.
After waking up like that my brain is wide awake. I usually jump on the computer, but last night I was determined to stay away from it and try to get back to sleep. That leaves my mind open to letting worrisome thoughts run amok. Worry over getting Bailey the help she needs, worry about her future, worry over the past, worry about how she’s being treated at school. Then it occurs to me that the very-unlike-her quiet spells that I’ve noticed in her lately may be related to school. She’s only been this way in the past week or so and it seems to happen after we get home, after she’s had time to check on her toons and terrorize the dog. Add that to her “crazy” question the other day and I’m starting to get really concerned.
Unfortunately this morning was one of those rushing-out-the-door-with-her-breakfast-in-one-hand-and-me-in-my-PJs-kind of morning. But after parking the car and walking with her up to the building I asked her the question I usually ask her after school.
“How is school going?” I ask.
“Great!” she replies.
“Are the other kids nice to you?”
Even though I can only see her profile I immediately notice her expression change.
“You can tell me.” I say.
“Not right now” she snaps.
Alrighty then. *Red flag*
I go into pissed-off-mama-bear mode because I just know there is a little twirp inside who has been mean to my baby. But I put on a smile, kiss her, and tell her she can tell me later. I emailed the special services teacher when I got home to ask her to check on Bailey today, to see if she can get Bailey to open up to her. So far I’m really not impressed with how they run things there but I’ll be darned if I’m going to sit by and let them ignore me on this. All this makes me really miss the special education teacher at Bailey’s last school. If she were handling this situation I wouldn’t have to give it another thought.
I know there will be mean kids out there. I know she will struggle with making friends. I know her peers will have a hard time understanding her. But I will not stand by and accept cruel treatment of her. Especially after the pool incident…
A few weeks ago, Bailey and I were having a particularly rough day. After we both had meltdowns, I decided we should try to turn the day around and head to our community pool. When we first arrived she was the only child there and she made several remarks about hoping some kids would show up. You see, she has a great desire to make friends, but her quirks most often times get in the way, never allowing new friendships to last longer than 20 minutes. Aside from the remarkably awesome army of 22 kids in her 1st grade class, there has been only 1 or 2 children that have gravitated towards Bailey and proved to be true friends.
After a while a group of five girls showed up. I would say their ages ranged from 4 to 9. They proceeded to get in the water, squealing and playing games. After watching Bailey pretending not to watch them for a good 10 minutes, I encouraged her to go over and play. She followed her normal “I’m Bailey. You wanna be friends?” script and for a little while things went swimmingly, pardon the pun.
Enter the made up game “Colors” for which I still can’t say I’m clear on the rules. But it involved tagging and one person being “it”. I could see trouble brewing from a mile away, but I try to give Bailey a chance to work through things without me always jumping to her defense. That’s what we’re supposed to do right? Throw the kid in the ocean and let them fight off the sharks, otherwise they’ll never learn to take care of themselves. Right? OK, that is a bit dramatic, but you get my point. Anyway, I’ve been accused by her in the past of being too “there” and embarrassing her, so I try to give her space. So with her anti-executive functioning mind, Bailey has a difficult time comprehending instructions and you have to break them out in small steps. She’s not dumb by any means. In fact, she scored gifted on verbal IQ. But her filing cabinets are all mixed up and the incoming mail she receives gets dumped in a messy heap on the floor of her brain.
Now, when you have a group of little girls throwing rules out to a made up game, and the rules are changing with the wind, she’s definitely not going to be able to keep up. Along with the fact that she is not a great swimmer and graceful she definitely is not. It was obvious that she was struggling. So her frustration got the best of her. She quit twice and reluctantly rejoined twice. But after being ridiculed for being a quitter and a sore loser by the oldest girl, and breaking down into tears, I finally stepped in to pull her out of the pool. My heart was breaking and I couldn’t stand it anymore. Knowing how bad she wants friends and how excited she gets when kids are around…and this is the result. Of course Bailey didn’t want to get out of the pool. She wanted to stay in and continue the torture. So the girls got one last show, as did the two dads and grandmother who were sitting idly by, wearing their smirks. I could read their expressions… “What a brat. Can’t even handle a simple game at the pool.” I wanted to run away and hide. But I had to rescue my girl from those rotten baby sharks first.
After having to threaten to go in after her and throwing out a bunch of “I know, I know” while she’s yelling loud enough for Texas to hear her, I managed to get her dried off. I noticed the parents trying to gather their girls up to leave and I hear the oldest girl speak so firmly and disrespectfully to her grandmother, and I shake my head at what is tolerated by adults from their children. They won’t step in to keep their child from bullying mine, because they themselves allow their little monsters to bully them.
In the girls’ defense, do they really know any better? As I mentioned in a previous post, Bailey doesn’t have a sign hanging from her shoulders that lets people know the potential for fireworks shooting out of her ears and they don’t know how difficult it is for her to process rules that aren’t her own. But I would like to think that just one out of the group would’ve managed a little bit of compassion for the tears and obvious frustration. The adults…they do know better. And they should teach better. Any grown up that sits by and watches their children treating another child that way and not encourage them to show a little patience and kindness should be ashamed of themselves.
I try my best not to worry. But when I settle for any amount of time on thoughts of her in the near future, at the stage in her life when friends and being accepted are so important, I feel sheer panic in my chest at what she will most likely endure. Right now she is so incredibly sensitive about feeling or looking different from her peers. As true as it is, she doesn’t buy the “everyone’s different” business. In her 7-year-old, Asperger’s mind she wants more than anything to be the same. I’m so afraid that she is going to sacrifice her true self in an effort to be like everyone else.
So the other day I made a point to catch her when she was calm and quiet. That time that I know she will hear me and it will sink in, and maybe what I have to say will even be filed in the right place. I said, “Will you promise me something?”
“What?” she asked.
“Promise me that, no matter what, you will never change who you are to make someone like you.”
For now that little promise will have to do. I know it’s not going to be that easy in the long run. But for now it will do. And even though I know there will come a day when I’ll be the uncoolest person in the world, I will always fight for her, I will always be her biggest fan and I will never let her forget it.