Clinging to okay

Several of you looked right past the story of how I nearly didn’t recognize my parents’ dog when they so-sneakily showed up last Sunday to surprise me, and went right for the more important issue, which was: How did Monkey do with meeting some of the kids he’ll be attending Hippie School with? (I would like to buy some proper syntax for that sentence, but I’m too lazy to fix it, so just pretend it wasn’t the most awkward and rambly one you’ve ever read.) Last Sunday we had just two of his classmates here (along with a younger sibling and the younger sibling’s friend), and despite three being a not-so-magic number when it comes to play dates, the boys did great. A good time was had by all, and aside from a couple of minor skirmishes (only one involving my own kid, even), all was calm and delightful.

Monkey couldn’t wait to start school. Every day he’s been asking IS IT MONDAY YET?? and every day I have assured him that school will be here before he knows it. So when we got an email on Thursday letting us know that there would be a school-wide pool party today, I thought this would be a good way to say “Here’s everyone, and also now it’s nearly Monday,” and I put it on my calendar.

But then yesterday Monkey voluntarily went to bed early, which is never a good sign.

This morning he seemed better, but then something minor happened with Chickadee and he ricocheted into full-scale meltdown mode just like that. He stormed upstairs “to calm down,” wherein we understand “calm down” to mean “create an insulting and incendiary poster for placement on the door to his room which indicates that he is of superior intelligence and the rest of us can kiss his ass.”

So we decided to skip the pool party. Clearly, it was going to be too stressful.

But about an hour (and a “oops I never took my meds this morning, I’ll do that now”) later, he was folding himself into my lap with an apology and asking if I could forgive him, and I said of course I could, and I asked him if he was okay.

“I am feeling kind of nervous about school starting,” he admitted. “It seems like I’m always changing schools and starting over.” I hugged him and allowed as to how it sure seems like that, huh? And I reminded him that THIS school is going to be REALLY GREAT, and for the first time it’s a school we picked specifically because of how awesome we think it will be for him, and starting over with new kids is no fun, but we really think it will all be worth it. He nodded and seemed cheered and then I asked if he wanted to try to go to the pool party for a little bit.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Whatever you think is best.” He uses that phrase on me all the time, my Monkey does—it’s his standard little professor-speak for “I have stopped trying to assert that I know everything and am graciously allowing you to take the helm.” I hate it in a way I can’t even begin to explain, but it’s tied to feeling like my assumptions of “best” are often incorrect and like I am constantly letting him down. (Thank goodness I’m not bringing any of my own baggage to bear on this already complicated relationship, huh?) Anyway, I told him I’d think about it and talk to Otto, and he left to go amuse himself for a bit.

We decided to try to attend for a short while; Monkey seemed fine and we didn’t want to blow it off.

So we got ready and drove across town and got slightly lost, and then we arrived at a small pool complex where there were other Hippie School kids and parents, and Monkey made a beeline for the table of food, because cheese curls do not require you to remember your manners or pretend to be interested in strangers. Eventually he allowed the teacher to introduce him to some other kids, and finally I all but drop-kicked him into the pool, insisting that if nothing else, the water would get the neon-orange cheese dust off of him.

Otto and I met and chatted with some other parents. Monkey floated around the pool on a lounger, mostly, but as I checked back in his direction every few minutes, I saw he’d at least started interacting with a couple of other boys while he was doing so. The boys we’d had to our house were not in attendance.

Just when I had unwound enough to sit down at a picnic table and join a conversation, I saw three boys come up on Monkey’s floating lounger and push it towards the edge of the pool together. And the world spun into slow motion, because I realized almost immediately what was happening, and what would happen next, and I wasn’t close enough to get there to stop it.

As I stood up, the boys began to tilt the float. The goal was to knock Monkey off—they were all playing some sort of game, I’m not sure what, but this wasn’t malice, just horseplay—but they’d pressed the far side of the float to the pool’s edge, which meant there was nowhere to dump Monkey that wasn’t going to result in some part of his body hitting the concrete pool lip.

As I hopped the picnic bench, Monkey’s head hit the side, and his body slipped into the water. The boys pushing the float—conscious only that victory was nearly theirs—jumped up on the underside of the float, which now had Monkey pinned against the pool wall.

As I began to run towards them, Monkey shoved his arms back up to the surface, between the float and the wall, and invective streamed forth from his mouth. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but I could tell it was nothing I wanted to hear.

As I bellowed “MONKEY!” and every neck in the area swiveled first in my direction and then his, my son began punching at the other boys. Two of them immediately swam back, away from him, while the third caught his fists.

By the time I reached him and plucked him out of the pool on a surge of Mama Bear adrenaline that made it feel like scooping up a wayward leaf, he was screaming obscenities, accusing the other boys of trying to drown him, and insisting that he was never going to the Hippie School in a million years, not unless he was allowed to kill that kid with his bare hands.

So that was it. I dragged him to a nearby chair to park him and give him some time and space to wind down. My cheeks burned hot and I tried to speak to him calmly (tried is the operative word, as every obscenity or accusation of people being “retarded” elicited such horror and embarrassment I’m sure I was snapping at him more than I was soothing him), and once I was no longer afraid he would run off I managed to glance around, thankful for the bit of cover provided by my sunglasses. I expected to see everyone gawking, looks of shock mixed with pity and a dash of “don’t get near that kid, freak-out might be contagious” tossed in there for good measure.

I’m pretty familiar with those looks by now. They don’t get any easier to bear, by the way. But I know them well.

Instead I saw… a few glances of concern. Kids who’d turned back to whatever they’d been doing before. A couple of understanding, encouraging looks in my direction. The main teacher walking over, asking Monkey if it was okay if she sat down, too. The parents of the other boys involved speaking quietly with them about what had happened.

Monkey railed for quite a while. He wanted to go home, he wanted to punch those jerks in the face, he was NEVER going to Hippie School no matter what anyone said. And I continued to be sad and mortified and tired and frustrated, but I couldn’t get over the complete absence of judgment. Clearly Monkey was not the first kid to lose his crap in this group and he won’t be the last. And that was… okay.

He recovered enough to apologize to the kid he hit, and to accept an apology from him as well. We packed up and began the drive home, having been assured by the teacher that this was a very stressful situation for him and she totally gets it, no worries, he is going to be fine.

I tried to breathe deeply and clear my head as Otto steered us towards home. A small and pitiful snuffling came from the backseat.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?” I peered back to see him scrubbing at his eyes with his towel, trying so hard not to cry that my chest began to ache just watching him.

“I don’t have any friends,” he squeaked, still trying to get ahold of himself. “I miss Lemur. I hate changing schools. I don’t know anyone now.”

“Oh, baby,” I said, exchanging a look with Otto. “You know some of the new kids. And you’ll meet the rest. And you and Lemur are still friends! I’ll call his mom and see when you can play, okay?”

“After what I did today? I don’t think I really deserve a play date.” He buried his face in the towel. And I briefly considered, and then decided against, explaining that yes, he doesn’t deserve a play date after that behavior, but no, he doesn’t lose the play date when really he acts that way because he’s a giant ball of stress and anxiety and seeing his one true buddy is basically therapy for him.

“Today was hard,” was all I said. “Starting a new school is exciting, but it’s also scary. Making new friends is scary for everyone. It’s not just you. It’s hard for me, too.”

“Me, too,” chimed in Otto. Monkey seemed to consider this, as if he was trying to figure out if we were just pretending.

“Can I tell you something, though?” He nodded. “We are choosing this school because we think this is where you have the best chance of being happy and learning a ton. And you have to admit that even when you were really super mad back there, everyone was still very nice about it. I think this is a safe place with a lot of love and understanding. I know it’s hard to start new, but you’ll get to know everyone and get used to it.” He nodded, again. I took a deep breath. “It’s what I think is best, okay? Trust me on this one. It’s going to be okay.”

“Okay,” he said.

Today, I’ll take okay. Hopefully we have enough okay for the first day of school on Monday, too. And however much we need after that.


  1. Jen

    Oh Mir. I’m sitting here in tears. I know that situation, have been in it so many times. A knocks on the door of Aspie so often, but isn’t. Just highly 2e with a massive dose of anxiety and . He starts a new school on Monday, in a new state, not knowing a soul other than his younger brother. He’s had one meltdown already this week, and I know tomorrow is going to be rough, tomorrow night horribly so. He wasn’t accepted into the district’s GT program, and his teachers/principal have NO idea what’s about to land in their building, despite me trying to explain to them. I wish we had a Hippie School, it would help so much.
    Good luck to you and Monkey this week. He’s going to make it, simply because you and Otto are fighting for him. These kids are going to change the world.

  2. Little Bird

    Wow, a school that understands, and parents that didn’t judge. I think you hit the jackpot. Given this specific situation, the pool and being trapped under a float, I can understand how that could send anyone over the edge (I would have done the same). Granted, the world of rigidity means holding on to that emotional response for just a touch longer than is necessary (again, I would do the same), but it sounds like Monkey did understand in the end.

  3. Becca

    Hippie school continues to sound amazing.

    On the topic of decisions – I know that I can get to a point of exhaustion where I don’t have the energy to make decisions anymore. Decisions take work, and it’s hard to think through all the options and possible consequences and decide what will be best. It sounds like you may be a shortcut when Monkey gets to that point.

  4. Brigid

    My heart just broke into a few hundred tiny shards for your sweet Monkey. I hope in a few weeks this will be a distant memory and Monkey will thrive at his new school.

  5. Sheila

    I will add to what Jen said with this: Mir, you’re going to change the world, too, with these heartbreaking reminders that it is not OK for me to judge kids or their parents for what I am ashamed to admit I used to see as simple bad behavior or poor parenting.

    (Also, I may have just tied you for the awkward and rambly sentence structure award. But I mean every ill-placed word of it.)

  6. Lisa

    WOW, just WOW. Tears in my eyes. You probably don’t think you do, but you handle this all so beautifully. Even when you are feeling overwhelmed by everything happening, you still show your love. Even when you are “snapping more than you should” you are there scooping up your child, body and spirit.

    Every time I read your posts I am awed by you. I can’t imagine how hard it is to watch your child struggle and feel helpless to make it all okay.

    Hugs and tons of good groovy vibes are coming at you from SC! Also, prayers for a little peace for a bit. Also, calm energy heading to Monkey along with a ferverent prayer that his Monday is MAGNIFICENT!!!!!

  7. Jenn

    I had something similar happen to me over 25 yrs ago – oversized inflatable tire, jostling for position, trapped underwater, followed by “why are you mad? this is just a game.” I did not punch anyone or curse, but thinking back on the situation, I am still angry at those other kids. I never trusted a one of them afterwards. I’m not aspie, and I think I was a bit older than your Monkey, but trapping someone underwater is still far outside the bounds of acceptable.

  8. pam

    I gotta think it’s going to be healing for ALL OF YOU to be in a place with kindness instead of judgement.

    Good Luck Monkey on Monday…

  9. Leslie

    Mir, your posts inspire me so much. You and Otto are doing such a great job with Monkey – I know this from your writing, even though I don’t know you in person. Bless you for what you do, and for sharing it with us. I will say a prayer for Monkey and all of you on Monday!

  10. meghann

    If it’s any consolation, I’m 100% certain Ryan would have reacted the same way in that situation.

    Non-judgmental people are awesome.

  11. Samantha

    Oh, I’ll send some prayers for Monday your way at church tomorrow. I hope the support and understanding helps this school year.

  12. Katie K.

    I am so happy for your family to have found that school. It means the world to have people “get” your kid, doesn’t it?

  13. Mary

    What young boy wouldn’t come up swinging if he felt like other boys had just nearly drowned him?!?!?! Aspie or not?!?!?!

    Adding to Sheila’s comment… I found myself rolling my eyes at a screaming child at the grocery store yesterday and then reminded myself that I know nothing of him or is family and who am I to judge? And I have you to thank for that.

  14. Crista

    Tears over here.
    They get it. I really, really hope this is a great year for all of you. If this school is as awesome as it sounds like, I know it will be.

  15. My Kids Mom

    I hope the school is all you hope it will be. I think it’s time for you, Otto and Monkey (and Chickadee who must feel all the stress too) to get a break and have something work out well!

  16. Cheryl M.

    I’m totally with Mary on this one…I don’t know how old those boys were, but we don’t play rough in the pool like that because there’s just too big a chance something like that can happen. We have an in-ground pool in our backyard, and have had tons of kids over to swim in it. First thing we do is go over the rules – no pushing or knocking over of floats, no squirting or splashing of adults, no running on the concrete. There have been a few times that we’ve had to remind the kids of the difference between safe play in the pool and dangerous play, but for the most part, it’s worked out well. I don’t blame Monkey at all for coming up swinging!

    You and Monkey will be in my thoughts, and I hope Monday is an awesome day for Monkey!

  17. alicia

    oh monkey. you have know idea just how much you are going to change this world. you’ve already changed mine and reminded me to be a little more patient.

    hugs to you all mir. praying that hippie school becomes a haven for monkey and your family. if this incident is any indication, i think you’re off to a good start.

  18. sarah

    I want to give that Monkey a big hug while he screams obscenities at me. I love obscenities, dammit. I scream obscenities in my head at people all of the time and always out loud in my car with the windows closed at jerkie-drivers who almost drown me. And I don’t have Aspergers!

    Poor Monkey. He’ll learn to filter. Until then, he’s lucky for people who understand him. Good luck on Monday!

  19. Lynda M O

    Sending a small wish heavenward that this school actually helps Monkey to grow and develop as a young man. Bless you, Otto and Chickadee for loving him beyond measure.

  20. Karianna

    I was seriously tense as I read this, and then relaxed. Hippie School does seem like a “safe place.” Fingers crossed!

  21. The Other Leanne

    What? It seems like a perfectly normal response to near-manslaughter to me. Not much different than the invective that issues from my mouth when someone pulls out in front of me on the highway and my life flashes before me. Not to minimize the shock and horror, but I don’t think this is an Aspie issue, I think it’s a “let’s not do stupid things in the pool” issue…and don’t haze the new kid, either. Hippie School got it right–and Monkey is in the right place.

  22. Casey

    I hope you know you are making the world a better place, one reader at a time.

  23. emily

    Sending many positive thoughts your way for tomorrow. Based on how people reacted it really does sound like a good place for Monkey.

  24. Stephanie

    Oh, Mir… You are so gifted at sussing out feelings and then putting them into words! Your posts are parenting inspiration. I just hope I can remember your wisdom in real time situations. In case no one has said it lately, thank you for sharing your life.

  25. Liz

    Tell Monkey that I get nervous at the start of every school year too. And I’m the teacher. Of two-year-olds. Still happens. I’m so glad y’all are at the Hippie School!!!

  26. Elizabeth

    Praying for tomorrow.

  27. karen

    Hippie school is sounding better with each post.

  28. Heather Cook

    You’re doing such a great job!

    And I hope Monkey knows that we all start over, every morning. :)

  29. All Adither

    Oh, Mir. I’m so sorry you all had to go through this, but I loved the way you wrote it. Monkey sitting in the back seat snuffling just…broke my heart. But I continue to believe that with your loving guidance everything is going to turn out okay for him.

  30. Kendra

    I feel for you! I keep hoping that one day (is today the day?), I’ll be able to relax when my firstborn heads out to play with the neighborhood kids.

    He only knows what his past experiences in school have been like…and kids like Monkey have a memory like an elephant. There’s a certain amount of deprogramming that needs to happen and how extensive that is, no one knows. He’s at the right school…it won’t be bump-free, but he’s in a place where he can grow emotionally and intellectually.

    Sending good “first day at a new school” vibes down to all of you today, but especially to Monkey.

  31. Heather

    I’m constantly amazed at your family’s grace and love. Monkey (and Chickedee) are lucky, lucky kids.

    Best of luck today to you all!

  32. Genevieve

    The more I think about it, the more I stick with my first reaction that it was a very scary situation for any kid to find himself pushed underwater and trapped against the edge. I don’t think Monkey overreacted that much.

  33. Aimee

    Oh, man… my heart just hurts that Monkey was so upset. I’m so hoping that he finds Hippie School a great place to be.

  34. Daisy

    I have a lump in my throat. I’ve been in your shoes, and it doesn’t feel good. Rest assured that Monkey will recover – probably faster than you will, darn it. Amigo recovers in hours; me? After a meltdown, it takes me days. Darn this analytical mom stuff.

    Take care. Seriously; take care of yourself.

  35. Heather

    Again with the crying. Sending loving and supportive vibes your way!

  36. Athalia

    An ache. And tears. One day at a time. Pumped about how the week has turned out, though – And tickled to hear he’s had such a super start to the year.

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