Thursday, July 7, 2011

When friends are enemies

I think continuing in the direction of being misunderstood because of one's autism that I spoke about in an earlier post  today I'll talk more about it in more detail.

The other day I went to the pool with my kids like we do every weekday during the summer.  Things were going well, and we were having a good time.  Sometimes, Bubby sees boys from his class and tries to play with them. They usually ignore him, or humor him for a few minutes until they slip away to play with someone else. Today, there was a boy there that sometimes comes over to our house to play with Bubby and seems to genuinely like him....Or so it seems... The two began playing and splashing and having fun. Until, another boy came to play.  I watched from a few feet away as he dynamic competently shifted.  Once, the other boy was added to the mix I could tell things were now different between Bubby and his 'friend'.  It started to resemble more of a game of keep away, but without an object to keep away.  The two other boys were now on a team, and my son was the odd one out.  They got aggressive and pushier. What was a fun game of spitting water in each other's faces was now turning into ugly.  I never know when I should intervene on these sorts of things.  I never trust my own intuition, as I can tell things aren't going right, but I can't read the body language to tell why.  I just know it seems that way to me, but can I trust my own perception?  I can't put into words what is wrong, so I doubt myself. I also don't want to be one of those helicopter parents that flit and hover intervening and micromanaging every moment of their child's life.  So, I waited as they got more and more aggressive to see what my son might do.  He grew tired in less than 5 minutes of them getting a turn to splash and spit water on him by force and did it back to his friend.  Bubby grabbed his friend and did the same thing back to him as he was doing to him.  So, what do you think happened next?  Did he get respect by standing up for himself?  Did he at least show them they can't do that?  No.  The boy gagged and coughed with drama so loud the life guard was looking. It was quite a show, and unfortunately if I hadn't been there to tell him that's what he gets for doing it first, guess who would have gotten reprimanded?  That's right, Bubby.  If I hadn't been there my son would've gotten into trouble for standing up for himself.

That made me wonder how many times has that happened?  It seemed almost like it was a familiar dynamic to the three of them. I wondered how many times my son was treated like the bad guy for being the victim. Then I realized that it won't be the last time it will happen and if I'm not there to see it I'll never know about it.  Bubby won't/ can't tell me.  He doesn't have to ability to recall a past event and register it as something he ought to share with me.  That takes way more social ability, and vocabulary then he has.  Also, he is not able to discern when someone is not nice to him, quite a bit of the time.  He knows it, but like me earlier, doesn't know how to explain it with words.  When he arrived home from visiting with his grandparents at the lake house I found him sitting alone in a quiet moment later than evening with tears streaming down his face.  I asked him what was wrong and he just said he was sad, but didn't know why.  I did.  It was the leftover feeling of being mistreated and dismissed.  Those moments sometimes come upon you when you least expect it. You don't know why suddenly you're swallowed up with sadness, but you are. Sometimes, I am able to put together, way after the fact, that someone was rude to me, or rejected me, or made me a butt of their joke.  Sometimes, it's hours later, sometimes, for no reason at all I'll remember something that happened 25 yrs ago and finally put the pieces together on what happened.  I'll finally see the social side that I was missing.  Those moments are coming more and more often as I see it replay again with my son.  It's awful.  I feel a certain desperation to stop him from having to face it.  I worry about it day and night.  I'm terrified to send him to fourth grade where he'll be in a new school with lockers and so much change.  I know what awaits him.  I am fully prepared to home school him if necessary.  I just hope it never comes to that.


  1. This must have been painful to watch and to write about. It is hard seeing this happen and as you say, knowing it happens more often than that and they can't tell you about it.

    I had been feeling good about W's introduction to school. He seems to be enjoying himself and he has friends but occasionally he lets something slip and I wonder how much of the story I'm getting really. Then I read something about the middle school years being the toughest for kids like him. It's when the gap widens socially and some of them find the going tough from then on.

    I hadn't cried about his situation for a long time but I did when I read that. I don't want that for him. He is so open-hearted and kind - he doesn't deserve that treatment.

    The pecking order is determined early. The alpha kids can be mean with their power and self confidence. Some of them learn to rein it in later in life and some don't. Their lack of sensitivity and the guile they use to disguise their intent still leaves me gobsmacked at times. Where do they learn it - how much of it is innate?

    Your awareness of the situation is a good thing though. I know you will make the right call for your son. He is lucky to have you looking out for him and having such an insight into the dynamic as you do.

    1. I'm sorry that I made you cry. :( Our kids will have a hard time at times, but I hear so many stories where ASD kids seem to get along pretty well with others and make some good friends. This boy did feel genuinely sorry and spent this last school year following Bubby around telling him so. He refuses to forgive him, though. I can't know what has happened (or what might continue to happen) when I wasn't there, but I wish he would not hold such a grudge. I've been there as that boy has said 'hi' to him for the umpteenth time with no reply from Bubby.

      I think your insight is good, as well. I think who we have in our corner sure can make a lot of difference and with you as his mom I think he'll be fine.


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