Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lexington Blue Thunder!!!!

Below is the kind of email I really like getting.  Read here about this program that Super D is in (I do  hope he likes it!).


Hello TOPSoccer families!

We hope you are as excited as we are about our first official practice this Sunday! We will be sending you more detailed information this week about our TOPSoccer fall season, but in the meantime wanted to remind you about this Sunday’s practice.

Where: Masterson Station Park Soccer Complex, Field #3 (next to concession stand)
Map to fields:
Date: Sunday, August 30th
Time: 2:00pm to approximately 3:30pm

What to bring: Each athlete should have on shin guards and bring water. Soccer cleats are desirable, but not mandatory.  We will have plenty of extra water.  (and don’t forget your lawn chairs for the parents to relax on the sidelines!)

At this first practice, players will meet their buddies, coaches and teammates.  We will be dividing into teams and the players will participate in the very first practice of the Lexington Blue Thunder!!!

We are all excited to be working with your children and teaching them the “beautiful game.”  Thank you for giving us this opportunity!

See you out on the pitch!
Jessie, Jason, Lindsay, Rod & Robbie
LYSA TOPSoccer Coaches

Posted by Jerry in 19:16:50 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Yup, Just Like I Posted Last Week

Last week I posted about successfully navigating mainstream soccer with Demetrius, and one of the points was about the other parent who doesn’t believe your kid should be on the team… and that you should/will need to get over it.

As the Fates would have it, we ran into ‘that dude’ last night.

His son doesn’t play on the team this year, he was real unhappy with just about every aspect of the Dragons (D’s team) last season – one of those guys you’d like to remind on a weekly basis that this is a church league for 5-6 year old boys.

We ran into him at a local pizza joint at dinnertime, Maya’s team was having their end of year pizza party and his son was having what looked to be an end of year Cub Scouts party.

Kim saw the boy, and he and Demetrius said hi to each other and Kim asked him how he was doing. Kim saw the dad at the counter to place the pizza orders and approached him to say hey, good to see you again. He ignored Kim, and passed right by Demetrius without saying boo.

Look, that’s aggravating and gets my hair up, in fact, it is just plain rude. I told Kim I’d like to go over to him at his table and let him know the Dragons are undefeated this season and had two goals scored on them (of course, both when Demetrius was on the field not really playing, but besides the point!), but what would that accomplish? Husband/dad, “I don’t like assholes” anger there. I could also speculate it might be having more talent on the field this season or a more positive ‘vibe’ on the sidelines among the parents…but to do so would just make me as big an ass as him. I thought it, that’s really enough.

As it was a nice night last night (one of the few remaining before the humidity and bugs set in for the summer season), his troop moved out to the pizza place’s porch.

After Field Day and swim practice, and a loud/sensory overloading experience at the pizza joint, Demetrius needed to leave earlier than Mom and Maya (especially obvious when he just laid on the floor and covered his ears). So we left and walked by the iron-gate that surrounded the restaurant’s porch. The little boy saw us and ran over and said, “Bye Demetrius, hope you have a good summer.” Demetrius said goodbye to him too.

All I can do is hope that this nice boy doesn’t grow up to be his dad. Looks like he’s got the makings of being a good kid, if Dad doesn’t work it out of him first.

Posted by Jerry in 19:23:33 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Right Incentive

Maya ‘likes’ soccer.  For Maya, it isn’t so much the game, or scoring goals…as much as it is the whole experience…talking with the other girls, playing in the game, the snacks (oh yea, the snacks are big).  When I ask her if she likes it, she almost never talks about the game, she’ll talk about anything other….she’s got a different context of what soccer is than I do.

She’s almost interested in the game.  She plays, but often wanders back in defense, and only semi gets involved in kicking the ball.  Its there, but she’d rather giggle and pour water from the water bottles on her head and her friends head. She’s a typical six year old.

That said, the coach and I discussed getting her to try to pay attention more, and play more aggressively in the game….we talked about it, we discussed if we ‘liked’ soccer, or if we were scared of the ball….nope, none of those. 

Well Saturday, we had a 9:15am game.  As Maya is out on the field I yell at her, “Maya Marie, score a goal, and I’ll take you to the pool (our neighborhood pool opened on Saturday) and we’ll go swimming.”

The child had another gear.  She scored a goal within 2-3 minutes of that ‘suggestion’.

When she came out she said to me, “For real Daddy?”

“Of course,” I answered.

She turned to walk down to the bench, beaming, and then turned around and asked, “What do I get if I score another goal?”

Look at what I started…

We came to an agreement on what we get if we score another goal.  But I don’t want to put any pressure on her by writing about it on the Internet.  I’ll let you know when she does – she’s got one more game left…..

Posted by Jerry in 17:50:21 | Permalink | Comments (1) »

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Specific Soccer Advice

I was asked in an email to be more ‘specific’ about what we want Demetrius to get out of soccer, and what we’ve learned from a couple of seasons of it, in a mainstream league.

Obviously, I can share that from my perspective. But I don’t think our experiences are exactly translatable to every other autistic child. But I can give insights, as I see them.

• Choose your team and league wisely. Demetrius ‘plays’ in a church league, with volunteer coaches. While the boys compete, really, this is just a fun league, with no standings kept. Every boy, on every team, receives a trophy. You want to make sure you are in an environment that isn’t too competitive.
• Have clear understanding between you and the parent/coach, of what the expectations and experiences are. Ex: last season, it seemed, about every third time Demetrius was on the field, because he doesn’t actually play, his team got scored on. His team was, in reality, playing a man short. We discussed this and agreed that we would approach the referees before the game that Demetrius would go on the field, but not actually be playing or interfering with the flow of the game. We all wanted him in, but we didn’t want the rest of the boys to suffer or get frustrated because they were really playing a ‘man down’. With the understanding of the goal of his involvement, and clear communication with the coach, opposing coaches and referees, everyone can have a relatively good and smooth experience, and a solution was found that benefited everyone.
• Interview the coach before you agree to have your child on his team. We found that our coach has an uncle who is mentally retarded and lives with coach’s parents in his elder years. He has empathy and understanding that we need through this experience. This ended being a point of relevance and comfort with us that he can handle Super D. You don’t want a dad that wears NFL team throwback shirts to practice and is going through his first coaching experience or is very intense about ‘teaching the boys how to win’. This probably isn’t the right match, and believe you me, you are going to need the right match.
• If you can, volunteer to the be the ‘team parent’. Kim was brilliant in doing this, all the picture days, scheduling, snack assignments go through her. She has to interface with all the parents, and thus, explain Demetrius and his condition. I’d say that 95% of the parents are understanding, and are rooting for our kid to be involved in every which way. With Kim having the opp to explain to each and all, there is no misunderstanding.

  • Most of the parents will understand. They will. And they’ll ask questions. And they’ll try to help. They will

• Yes, you will have the one parent that you can see wants your kid off the field, and in his own league for ‘special kids’. You have to get over that, because most likely he or she won’t. By the way, this is the obnoxious parent period. If your kid wasn’t special needs, and he wasn’t good at all, they’d feel the same way about your unathletic/nerdy kid anyway.
• Try to set your expectations. I grew up in a soccer playing family. A competitive soccer playing family. Let me explain it this way – my sister’s team growing up played against Mia Hamm’s teams, and my team played against teams that had US National Team members on them. It was so, so, so hard for me when Demetrius simply couldn’t/wouldn’t attempt to play. He wandered around the field, stressed out, avoiding playing, squealing the whole time. I remember, in all honesty, trying not to cry and hold it together as I was out on the field with him, as he buried his head in my stomach because of the stress and this was that cold water on some level of my hopes and dreams about soccer. Maybe it was because he was playing in a mainstream league with boys who ‘got it’. Maybe it was simply, a Jerry issue Jerry just had to get over. Maybe bits and pieces of this and other things. That said, it is incumbent on you to swallow hard, have your cry in your car and then tell him what a great job he is doing playing soccer. Folks, if you can mainstream your kid in a regular classroom and fight to the ends of Hades to make sure his IEP is right…you can handle this. This type of reaction is very much a ‘dad’ thing I think. But like I said in a posting last week: Demetrius wouldn’t play in a make up game because it was on Wednesday night, and he only played soccer on Mondays and Saturday mornings…and that was fine. He could run around and not play. He was outside, he was active, and he was happy to run around a bit with the boys before the game and after the game to get snacks. He had fun. I had fun rooting on his team. This is where we all have to get.
• I’ll call it out again. Have your cry. Have your dark moment. It’s okay. Then, root as hard as you can for the ‘Falcons’ or ‘Dragons’ or ‘Ladybugs’. And if your child sees you doing it, they’ll try hard in their own way….and isn’t that progress and a positive experience in its own, weird, autistic world way?

I think it is….

So there you go. Hope this helps.

Posted by Jerry in 22:00:11 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Respect For The Coach

Demetrius had a ‘make up’ soccer game last night. Now, for most kids that’s kind of cool, right? Well, when you are autistic, and this isn’t part of the ‘norm’, then it can be an issue. So much so you refuse to play. Which is fine, Demetrius had a good time running around the ball fields that weren’t being played on. 

But it was interesting to watch him when his team’s coach showed up.  He was a touch late (traffic) so some of the other dads kicked in to help, but when Demetrius saw his coach, he immediately ran over and sat down on the bench, instead of ignoring my requests to behave, go and sit with the team, or maybe, go in the game!

Demetrius never played, but he behaved. It is always a funny situation when watching your kids interact with other adults, especially authority figures.  As one mother commented, “Just be happy they are doing something that their coaches and teachers tell them to do… even if they do completely ignore us.”


Posted by Jerry in 20:36:01 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Soccer (Baseball?) Practice For 1st Grade Love Bugs

I think sometimes the line between neuro-typical seven-year-old and autistic seven-year-old is very thin, and gray.

Demetrius had soccer practice at the local church last night.  As I’ve blogged before, I’m on the field for most of it trying to redirect Demetrius back into the practice/game, so he can bond with the boys.

This means Demetrius plays fullback (in the back), when they scrimmage, because he’s not wanting to be in the middle of the field where he just kind of skips and gets in the way (he was running the direction the ball was going yesterday). 

This is HUGE. This means he is paying attention, but he still really doesn’t want to kick the ball too much….
But he’s getting more involved. Like we say all the time, baby steps.

While standing there next to the goal, the goalie, who we will call….Fred (to protect the innocent), was standing there.  He grabbed my shirt and pulled.

Fred: Mr. Coach (I’m not the coach, but because I’m on the field, many of the boys think I’m an assistant coach)?

Jerry: I’m not the coach, but how can I help you, Fred?

Fred: When do we get to hit the ball with a bat?

Guys, we are a full three weeks into soccer, and this kid has been waiting to play baseball.  He isn’t sure what he’s doing!  He is finally getting the nerve up, I think, to ask about playing baseball….at soccer practice.

So I just kind of smile….

Jerry: Fred, this isn’t baseball. This is soccer. We kick the ball with our feet. There aren’t any bats in soccer. If you want to hit the ball with a bat, you need to sign up for baseball. But baseball season hasn’t started yet, I don’t think. You should talk to your mom.

Fred: Okay.  I’ll ask her why I’m not playing baseball and am playing soccer?

Jerry: Yea, um. Okay, you ask her that….

And I wonder exactly what are the differences between my boy and all these others on the field (at times)?

At the end of practice we work on our throw ins.  One little boy, not Fred, we’ll call him Joe, yelled at his mom that she left his water in the car during the break.  The  mom runs, gets his water, and comes over to Joe who is in line practicing his throw ins.

Mom: Here you go, Joe (kiss Joe on the cheek).  Joe gets real embarrased and almost starts to cry as the mom runs back to the sideline.

Moms, there are times and places to kiss your boys.  But not during practice, in front of the other boys.  Now, 1st grade boys are pretty much unaware of their surroundings…so Joe didn’t get a bad ribbing. But the dads gave the mom a bit of a talking to.  She chuckled, said she forgot and recognized that Joe was a touch embarrassed.

Moms, please, during sporting events, don’t give your boys pecks on the cheek.

Of course, I can’t say much, Kim was yelling at Demetrius during the scrimmage: “Pay attention to the game, Love Bug.”

Moms….sigh.  Oh well, maybe it will be different for Fred at baseball practice with a bat in his hand.

Posted by Jerry in 21:28:59 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Few ‘Interesting’ Photos From The Weekend

Here is just a great photo of Demetrius from his last practice of the season. I don’t see as much David Beckham (pretty boy) in him as much as I see a great workhorse defensive midfielder…something more along the lines of a hustling Bundesliga player who could tackle you straight up and seperate muscle from shin bone while not flinching at all….or, just a 7-year-old boy that really wants to know when practice is over and he can get an ice cream cone. One or the other.

Here they are: the fearsome Cheetah Girls. You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but these cute piggy-tailed blondes won every game going away, about 15-3. They are head and shoulders bigger and faster than any of the other teams. Of course, they have no concept really of winning and losing, just halftime and end of game snacks. Why are they so good? Simple – only two girls are the oldest in their families. The rest are little sisters. Feisty and fighters. Enough said. The Cheetah girls, mostly blonde and taller than the competition, would also do fine in the Bundesliga.

Here is Maya and Coach Wagner. Coach usually has the girls run across burning hot coals barefoot to toughen up their feet…before they start kicking the balls. Tough feet, tough mind – feel no pain. Either that or they sing silly songs from Disney movies during the warm ups. One or the other.


Now, this, well, this is something else.

Right now, AT&T is upgrading the phone lines in our neighborhood…digging holes in all of our yards. There are probably fifty or so workers, foremen, engineers in the neighborhood. Lots of trucks with lots of equipment. But these three pictures take the cake, and show how sad some things can be.

This is an actual horse trailer. Yes, the kind you haul horses in to shows behind big Chevy-like trucks, etc…as you can see, from the first picture, it is filled with lots of equipment that guys would use to lay down new phone lines, right? Cones, wires, boxes, etc…so, you think it is equipment that is only being transported in this horse trailer? Wrong.

This morning, as the trailer is being parked two doors down from our house, a number of hispanics, the guys doing the back breaking hole digging (in Georgia red clay that hasn’t seen rain in who knows how long), are actually transported in, and hop out of the trailer and dropped off to do the dirty work. No joke. Like they were animals. No joke. Kim said she saw them park the trailer and the guys get out. Demetrius and I took Buddy for a walk and a few guys were in there eating a late afternoon snack yesterday, I thought that was weird.  So when Kim told me what she saw, it just clicked.  Holy cow!

C’mon AT&T…they might be day laborers, they might be just barely legals (if at all)…but I think it is way bad form to transport folks in a horse trailer to a work site. If you are sub-contracting, AT&T, you might want to just check out this vendor of yours, because our neighborhood is pretty dumb-founded that this is actually how you are treating your workers.

Still don’t believe me? Here are a couple of more shots of the trailer:

Heck, they don’t even put an AT&T logo on the trailer, just the ex-owner or owner renting the trailer out.

So very sad. Yea, Kim and I are liberals, this about takes the cake on one of the more surprising things we’ve actually seen. Put your workers in a horse trailer and haul them in. Jeez.

Posted by Jerry in 02:28:30 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, November 12, 2007

A few things

Saturday was the last soccer game of the season for the boy (and girl). Last game of the season and the coach tried a new tactic – Demetrius could play as long as he wanted, and playing basically a player short wouldn’t penalize the team. This is what playing a team previously will do – the coaches of the other team remembered Demetrius, and how basically harmless he is to the flow of the game. So Demetrius wandered on and off the field at will. Now, he stayed on the field most of the game, because one of the team dads told him that if he got the ball and scored a goal that he could eat all the donuts he wanted after the game (donut party after the last game of the season).

Well, he didn’t score a goal, and he really didn’t mix it up, but he did try to kick the ball once that bounced to him and he was a bit more engaged than he usually is on the field. A couple of the boys tried to get him to run up and down the field with him, and he ran along with them. Donuts, clearly, are the right motivation for this child. Now we know. ☺

After the game, at the party, many of the parents walked up to us and said some great things. The kind that makes wives cry and dads work to keep from welling up.

“We are impressed at how hard you two worked with Demetrius to keep him involved with this. That was great to see (one even told Kim that it bordered on inspirational in a daily live sort of way).”

“Our son hasn’t been around special needs kids and was a bit scared when Demetrius would talk to himself, and now he sees Demetrius is just another kid, but a bit different. That’s great for us, thank you.”

“It seems that Demetrius had fun. I’m glad he played on the team. Will he be playing with us next season?”


Daddy (after reading to Demetrius and talking in bed): Demetrius, did you have fun playing soccer?

Demetrius: Yes, I had fun.

Daddy: Do you want to play soccer again, or do you want to play baseball (Miracle League) again?

Demetrius thinks for a minute (he’s also a bit tired)…

Demetrius: I want to play soccer again, they are my friends.

Demetrius, sometimes your very direct responses are all that ever need to be said.


While he says he enjoys it, we know to a certain level it is incredibly stressful for him. When we go to Maya’s games he runs as far as possible from the field and the cheering parents. He’s better with his headphones, but still…

And he threw up in bed Saturday night, but he did have a donut and pizza party and there were a lot of hands over the ears and twirling of the hair…so a stressful day. What’s the balance here? Hard to say for this kid….


Kim had a show yesterday for some of her artwork, so I took the kids to their church school classes. This in and of itself isn’t worth blogging about, but one of the things that really get me down is when I meet people for the first time is their comments to me about Demetrius. ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE TRYING TO BE POSITIVE.

First, I should say I’m not the church going type. I’m a big cynic about organized religion, among other things…. but this isn’t a blog to discuss that subject. So I’m not heading to church with Kim and the kids on Sunday mornings. It’s not like that famous Norman Rockwell picture (I’m usually doing the yard work then), but we have a détente in the house in regards to this choice of mine.

So yesterday morning I meet a number of parents who either know Kim from her activities, have kids in activities with our kids or meet the church school class teachers for the first time. I shake hands and introduce myself. Or they see us in the hall and come up and introduce themselves. Let me state emphatically here that they are all gracious and positive. However, this is one of those wide gulf things between the world we live in and the one they live in.

Parent/Teacher: Hello Mr. Grasso, I’m XXXXX.

Me: Nice to meet you, I’m Jerry Grasso.

Parent/Teacher: We are so glad Demetrius is in our XXXXX, he’s a great kid and he did really good today. He paid attention and even answered some questions. We are so glad he’s here.

Me: That’s great! He loves the XXXXX, thank you for the feedback and kind words.

We each go on our ways. I try to be tough, but in my quiet moments I stew, seethe or just get depressed about these conversations.

The conversation follows a path about this child’s differences. It is pointed out that he is a ‘good’ ‘sweet’ or ‘great’ kid. I know this. Why are you telling me this? Why are you making an emphatic point of this? What do you think when you first meet him, or find out he’s autistic or when he does something ‘weird’? You have fears about him, don’t you?

I think most adults give kids the benefit of the doubt, that they are good kids until proven differently. However, they don’t know what to expect with special needs kids, therefore, it seems to me, that this is a pleasant surprise with Demetrius’ demeanor. It needs to be pointed out – to me, his dad. I wouldn’t make a big deal about it except this is almost NEVER the case when I meet parents for the first time who interact with Maya.

“He did really good today” is a staple statement in the life of Demetrius. Also, I don’t prompt it, it is simply offered to me (minus school/therapies where we need this for the obvious reasons). What is the assumption here? That he is going to sit and stare at the wall and drool on the table? Granted, some days it seems this way, but the kid just needs a bit of help and he’ll do the best he can at everything he tries. No different than any other little boy or girl.

I know some of this is a confidence issue on their part. They’re volunteers and certainly giving the best effort to work with this child, and not trained to be a special needs educator in any shape or form. If I just got this randomly, once in awhile, I probably wouldn’t react this way to it, but since I get it every time he’s in a new situation or I meet someone for the first time…. well, it’s a bit of a burden isn’t it.

The burden? The burden that there is something wrong that has to be proven to be either minimized or disproved in his behavior and actions. That special needs kids do really badly, versus really good, most of the time? We know that’s not the case, but the barriers between the neuro-typcials and the special needs families here are often so clear that they are more than figurative or just the elephant in the room. They truly exist in the very first statements people utter to you, the parent of the special needs child.

It also makes me worry for the boy. Does he feel like he’s being treated differently? Or is this something that, unfortunately, is just the way it is in his life, so he’s accepted it and doesn’t even recognize it? I wonder.

Posted by Jerry in 15:16:04 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tough Skin and An Old Sweater

Each weekend it gets better and better. The other boys are talking to him, even a certain one roots him on during the warm ups. Parents are cheering for him, a few claps for him after I run out onto the field and get him during substitutions. Sure, he still buries his head into my belly after being out on the field – but since everyone’s expectations are calibrated, soccer is now officially ‘fine’ with two games left in the season.

I know there are a couple of dads out there on the team that take it seriously for their boys. I get it. And I also know that basically the boys are playing a man short when D is out there, he’s gotten out of the way of the other team when they are coming downfield…twice in those instances the team has been scored on. I get it that those dads don’t say anything to me, one-way or the other. I look at the experience this way, you can never talk about the reasons why we are doing this (having him play on this team) to a true believe…they want their boys to have a certain type of experience. Like I said, I get it. They get it (I’m sure, but don’t agree with it). But we go our different ways with an understanding of ‘it is what it is’ without ever saying anything to each other.

However, there are a couple moms that Kim has gotten on with, and the dads happen to be the first two I ever noticed rooting for the boy when he was out on the field. I’ve even noticed that one of the dads has no problem approaching and talking to Demetrius. It’s the dad of the little boy that was asking me about Demetrius ‘not caring’ a few weeks ago. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

After the game this group of parents approached me and asked if I would like to join them at Chick-fil-A for some breakfast after the game. Of course! We were short Kim yesterday (she was working an event) so this would be an opportunity for the kids to blow some time before Maya’s game (Chick-fil-A has a playground). Perfect! Further, Maya’s gotten to be buds with the little sisters, so she rode with one of the parents over to the restaurant.

Demetrius and I went over, we ordered some breakfast and the kids wanted to eat outside (they want to run and play and eat on the move, and the parents were just fine with that). One of the two families had another one of the boys from the team for the day, so plenty of little boys and plenty of little girls to run around with.

We start chatting; I think to myself that I’m experiencing one of ‘those moments’. Acceptance, acceptance through a completely normal socializing/suburban lifestyle experience. The kind of after the game pizza run that we did when I was a kid (when there wasn’t a sibling game to run off to or such), those moments that aren’t real clear in your head as an adult…the, how do you say, “This is what I think parenthood/adulthood should be like” moments that come so far and few to us in the special needs life. The kind that just end up fitting like a soft old sweater…just right and warm enough. We talk about how the boys are really playing better, but who really cares, first graders really care about the after game snack. And how the poor mother today brought grapes, and the boys complained. How classic. Chuckles from all of us.

Then I look out the window, just to check.

I sat Demetrius with his food, in the middle of the boys’ table. Maya’s the oldest of the little girls, so wherever I sat her that gaggle would follow, but I have to be strategic with the boy.

But that was somewhere between 10-15 minutes ago. Now, well, now the boys were a group of four over to the side and the girls were running around. And Demetrius was sitting there by himself, eating tater tots, doing TV talk. I get up to walk out there and tell him to go play with the other boys. The boys run by and he watches them as I walk. Then Maya, and he says something to her; but she’s in throes of playing, she stops long enough to hear a couple of words and she catapults off – she knows TV talk when she hears it, and she’s got no time for it as she runs to play. He, somehow, falls off the seat, I see him bang his hand and he yelps and flaps. I walk out and ask him if his hand is okay, he banged the crap out of it, but he’s fine. I tell him to go play with the boys. He runs over to them, and they all go up into the slide of the play area.

About then, and yes, I realize it is 9:45 am, one of the dads walks out with 8 cups of ice cream for the kids. They all run over. I go back in after helping hand them out (you know how kids are when that’s around, danger of them crowding and spilling it all over the tray). I go back in with the dad talking about how they’ll eat that in 50 degree weather with no shoes on, running around outside, and be completely happy. I sit back down, I of course look, and Demetrius is again sitting by himself with his ice cream. The group has moved on. But I just watch for a minute. He holds his fidget toy (a Superman figure) and does TV talk.

Bravely, he gets up and walks over to the boys. I’m pretending to pay attention to the parents. I am really absorbed in Demetrius and watch intently. He says something. The boys just look at him. I know the puzzled look they have. He doesn’t know what to say. So he’s trying to get their attention with reciting lines from a TV show. They’re confused. They really don’t do anything. One says something back to him, but he’s in mid-dialogue. They simply don’t react, they kind of laugh…and they move on, as six and seven year olds do. He doesn’t try to keep up, or go with them. He goes back and sits down where he was and eats his ice cream. Alone.

It takes everything I have not to tear up. I should be tougher at this point. I’ve seen this so many times before with him. But it never gets any easier. I realize this time – it’s not him, this time, it’s me. I put on that sweater and I let me guard down.   Tough skin is what was needed, not a cozy sweater.  I should know that this is my normalcy, not…’that’. ‘That’ being: not picking on his sister or jumping off of a table. Normalcy for me is to make sure he doesn’t somehow find a way to wander out into the parking lot, or follow a stranger with something that catches his eye. Shame on me.

I refuse to just let this moment happen. I get up and tell him to just go and play with the boys, don’t be scared or shy. Just follow them around and it will be fine. This time it is different, I can tell his confidence is a bit shot, he tried to talk to them and it went nowhere. He buries his head in my stomach. For some unknown reason I’m really vulnerable to this situation on this Saturday morning. I muster my all and kneel down to Demetrius so I’m at eye level with him in his chair and I tell him to just go play. He does, he doesn’t play with them, he plays around them. Good enough.

As I turn around I see one of the two moms watching. I know she somewhat understands, mommies are empathetic creatures, much more so than dads are. “Be tough,” or ‘shake it off” isn’t paramount language/posturing to the role of a mommy, just as it isn’t with a parent of a special needs child. We make eye contact. I smile a bit, she smiles a bit back and she tells the dad something. I sit down. If we get to know them better they’ll start asking questions about autism and Demetrius, etc…but it is too early for that conversation to take place. So until that time comes in terms of discussion, I’ve found that moms watch and learn about ‘us’ through visual observation.

A few minutes later, the dad goes out and tells the kids something (mostly, to behave, I’m sure)…I try to get back into the conversation with adults and get out of my head thinking about Demetrius. I’ve taken the proverbial sweater off and put the sweater back into the drawer. Instead I put back on the tougher skin I had taken off for the sweater. The moment passed. ‘It is what it is’… is back front-and-center.

A few minutes later I dutifully look up to make sure my kids are both there in the play area and acting appropriately. I see this particular mom and dad’s little boy pulling Demetrius up the slide, talking to him. I look at this pair of parents, I smile. They smile back.

I don’t put the sweater back on. But I think, a day later, I might just need to buy a new sweater. It might not be as warm or soft as that one I mentioned previously, but it might just fit better, and become the new old favorite sweater at some point in the future.

Posted by Jerry in 19:21:04 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Weekend Photos

All are from Nonni, our family’s photographer this past weekend:

The weekend started out bright and early with Demetrius’ 8am soccer game. Here we are going over the gameplan: First, soccer; second, pancakes; third, trip to Target……

While the boys played soccer, the little sisters licked and ate ring pops…at 8:20ish in the morning. Starting the weekend off with a well balanced diet of sugar and red dye #7….

In between Maya and Demetrius’ games, Grandpa and Maya had to play Littlest Pet Shop, the latest toy craze for Maya Marie…

Warming up for Maya’s game, we played some keep away….Daddy attempted to keep the size 3 ball away from two very talented Cheetah Girls (laughing and giggling the whole time)….

Maya got the ball, and then worked on shooting drills (notice we are wearing our pink shin guards on the outside of our soccer socks…we gotta show that pink…)

After soccer, it was on to the big hotel adventure, for some indoor swimming action….

And some ‘Grandparents letting me watch as much TV as possible’ action….

And going down to the dining area of the hotel in our PJs and eating what we want for breakfast (yummmm – fruit loops and bacon, what a lovely breakfast….)

Sunday brought us to a nature walk, where Demetrius and Maya built a ‘fort’ that the two of them, and the ants and termites, all could fit in and under. Demetrius was going to move in. When asked what he’d do without TV he responded he’d bring the car DVD player, when asked about food, he said he would eat wood. Well, he’d get his roughage…

What a weekend…now if Daddy only had his car….

Posted by Jerry in 19:38:08 | Permalink | Comments (1) »