“Look Daddy! Look! Something really special happened outside! It SNOWED! I want to go out there! Let’s make a snowman! Let’s play in the snow! I really want to go out there!”
“Okay Roc, let’s eat breakfast and then we can go out. I need to shovel the driveway,” I heard GC tell the Roc as I pulled the covers up to my chin. It was his turn to get up with the early rising Roc. We had spent the evening before playing card and board games with a couple friends and I didn’t go to bed until after 1 am. I closed my eyes as I heard the beginning preparation of the Roc’s oatmeal, the breakfast he’s had every day since school started.
“WHOA! Look at all the snow! I am SO EXCITED! I LOVE this!” I heard the Roc exclaiming as GC helped him into his snow gear. He must have gulped down his food. “I want to go right now! Can I go outside now? You can meet me! Okay? Okay? Okay Daddy? Okay? Okay?”
“Yes Roc, go ahead,” I heard GC sigh and I could imagine him shaking his head and smiling. I got up so I could peek out the window at him. He had jumped right in.
As I moved around the house I kept peeking out the windows. Roc was in the front yard, then he appeared in the back yard sledding down the little hill at the back of our property. GC poked his head in, “M came over to sled with Roc,” he told me smiling. “He yelled YAY! when M came over.” Later little L joined Roc and M as they played in the snow. A couple times I saw GC talking to the Roc as he flailed around, kicking the snow and yelling. He got over his upsets quickly and GC spent some time talking to little L’s dad.
I was sitting at my computer awhile later when GC came in. “Roc is over at little L’s house with M. L’s dad invited them over for hot chocolate,” he told me.
I slowly turned to face him, my eyes wide, then I leaned over and looked out the window across the street to L’s house.
“Holy shit. Really? That’s was so nice of L’s dad. Did Roc go right away? Oh man, I hope it’s going okay.” Thoughts flew through my head. The Roc getting upset over his wet clothing, or not being able to get his snow stuff off, or stepping on melting snow, or the hot chocolate being too hot, or, or, or….so many things can trigger an upset. The upsets are so loud.
“Yup, he yelled YAY! I WOULD LOVE THAT! and went over.”
“Is Ange home?” I asked.
“Yes, I saw her earlier.”
“Oh good. She is a teacher, she knows autism, and she’s always been really good at talking with Roc. She’s told me more than once that he is welcome at their house. She’ll be okay. He’ll be okay,” I said as I pulled my phone off the charger. Two minutes later Ange sent me a text with the following picture:
“Cheers! I love my friends!”
I messaged her back and thanked her for having him over. I told her later that it was a first for him, and for me. He had never been invited to a friends house without me. She told me they were all going to go back outside to play after their stuff dried in the dryer for awhile, and she said he was well behaved and very polite. Later she sent me this pic:
I sat back in my chair and smiled. Before we moved to Minnesota I thought about what our new neighbors would be like. I was comfortable in our old neighborhood, our neighbors were nice, some of them went out of their way to interact with the Roc. It meant a lot to me, and it was something I was sad to be leaving behind. I hoped that in our new neighborhood, where ever that might be, we would have positive relationships with our new neighbors.
It was a very hard adjustment for the Roc when we moved here. He would get upset when children he didn’t know would come into the yard or ride their bikes up the driveway and want to talk to him. I watched, heart in my throat, as most children gave up and walked away. Not M, the boy who lives next door, he waited the Roc out. He kept trying. He would come over and join the Roc in the sand box, or coloring with chalk on the driveway. He would keep talking to him. He came over to play at our house a few times and last winter played in the snow with the Roc. It was another first for me. The Roc outside playing, me watching through the window. I stood at our upstairs window watching as M convinced the Roc to try a bigger hill, and then rode on the sled with the Roc because he was too scared to go by himself. Now a year later, they are still playing together, even though M is in middle school now, and has his own friends. He will still come over to see if the Roc wants to play. It has been so good for the Roc, in so many ways. The Roc wants to be included, he wants to have friends, he wants to have fun just like any other kid.
Look at the smile on his face in those pictures.
We both got really lucky.
Our neighbors have turned into friends. It’s so much more than I had hoped for.