Last week, Nathan went to spend some time with his grandparents, leaving me and Alex to enjoy an afternoon together.
He's had a rough time over the last month or so (as have we). Every time he finds something he enjoys, we figure out a way to stop him from doing it. (lousy parents won't let him destroy things for fun and ... well, fun.) He's been under almost constant supervision. It's been one of the reasons I haven't been as regular in posting as I'd like to be.
Despite the challenges, I try very hard to never lose sight of the funny and clever little boy hiding behind the behaviours. Alex is an amazing kid with his ability to remember thousands of songs and identify dozens of different car types at a glance. He loves drive-thrus and has the most infectious genuine laugh I've ever heard. At nine, he still plays like a toddler, full-tilt and without pretension or self-consciousness.
I know we have now reached a point where his autism is no longer "invisible" to the public. His behaviour is radically different from other children his age, drawing immediate attention wherever we go. In some ways, this is a relief. It means he is less likely to be labeled as "bad" and be the subject of discipline attempts. On the other hand, it means he has fewer opportunities to interact with neurotypical children. Quite simply, they are now living in an almost entirely different world than the one he occupies.
It doesn't preclude us from having our own fun, though. We went swimming at a local pool, just the two of us. I didn't have to divide my attention between two children and Alex could pretty much follow his own agenda.
He had a great time cannonballing off the pool steps. I would stand at the bottom at keep watch for other swimmers, letting him know when it was safe. He was fairly good at listening, only a few miscues. Luckily, there were only a few other people in the pool.
For the last twenty minutes, we had the pool completely to ourselves. Which meant that I got to indulge in some swimming rather than standing in the shallow end and keeping an eye out.
Alex was thrilled. He swam over me while I swam underwater. He swam underwater while I floated on top. We raced across the pool. His laugh echoed off the ceiling like infectious faery bells. It was an amazing interactive experience. I don't get those very often with Alex, so I treasure them.
At the end, he got out of the pool and hopped into the shower, without being asked. I asked him if we were all done swimming and he said "All done. Time to go home." Usually you couldn't pry this kid out of the pool short of setting it on fire, but for that day, he'd had enough (over two hours, so perhaps not surprising).
When we got home, he wanted to sit and cuddle, watching some TV. It's one of the best afternoons we've had together in awhile.