I have two words for you. Shin guards. When you have a child who is resistant to change and has heightened sensory awareness and despises anything tight, strapping a pair of clunky, plastic shin guards on him was as horrifying to him as swabbing him with syrup and throwing some red ants his way. Then toss in the awkward, stiff cleats, high tight socks and never wore anything remotely close to it uniform top and voila, you get one whiny, fussing, miserable, could care less about soccer, soccer player! Ta-da! What the he** was I thinking?! Well, for one thing, Denial and her soccer star son were so cool and they both really seemed to love soccer, so surely Ryan would get use to the uniform and love it too, right? Fat chance.
Following one very good first half of me screaming and Ryan trying his best, he scuttled off the field gloriously happy for his snack. You could see in his face he was pleased with his triumphant performance. No, he did not score a goal, but he stayed on the field AND ran in the right direction! After the halftime snack, Ryan happily trotted back on the field only to be told by the coach in a really frustrated, not so nice voice, "No RYAN, not YOU....go sit down!!". The happy face on my "trying so hard to be a soccer player" boy quickly went from joyful to crestfallen. I swear to you I will NEVER, EVER forget that confused, embarassed beautiful face as he stumbled off the field. I know the coach had no idea the damage he had done, any more than I did when I registered him for soccer, and it certainly was not intentional, but that still didn't keep me from wanting to sidekick a soccer ball at the coach's face. Poor Ryan, he finally got it right, only to be told he had it wrong. The final soccer straw came on a cold, bright, sunny, windy day. When the wind got too windy, the sun too sunny and the whistle too loud, my boy curled up in the fetal position on that soccer field with the game going on around him. I put down my hammer, folded up my soccer chair, picked my son up, wiped away our tears, and we never looked back. Game over. Well, until baseball rolled around in the spring.
It eases the pain in my heart when I read a book written by a teenager or an adult with an autism spectrum diagnosis who say they know their mom did the best job she could at trying to understand a child who was so different from herself. As a mother, you only want your child to be happy and it's difficult to accept that what makes "most" kids happy does not neccesarily make your child happy. Imagine if Beethoven's mom told him to stop perseverating on that "same song" and play something "different" or had Einstein's mother told him to put his pencil down and go play stickball like "all the other kids". We need our square pegs like Beethoven, Einstein and Ryan to make our world brighter, bigger and more stimulating. If all we had were round pegs sliding so easily into round holes, the world would be so very simple and tedious and all those round pegs would be indistinguishable. I have tried to retire my hammer (except for those moments when judgemental mothers cross my path) and I pray that while I was still running in the same circle with Denial that I didn't do much damage to my perfect square peg and that one day he will forgive me for lifting my hammer even once to try and change his beautiful shape.
"Autists are the ultimate square pegs and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work.. It's that you are destroying the peg."