Archive for September, 2010
It’s been one of those nights. If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you really know. As much as I try to sleep and as much as i try to think of other things, it seeps from my unconscious region to my consciousness. “Will he be ready for the world without me?” “Is there more I can do?” “Have I been fooling myself into thinking everything will be OK?”
On these nights, I peel back the layers of work, appointments, commitments, socializing and all of my joking around and I find myself staring at a hostile, unforgiving world. The rose-colored glasses are off and the snakes have moved in, circling, waiting to engulf. I employ positive thinking. I meditate. I read. I write. They’re still here, slithering.
As stated previously, The Bean is a manager on his high school football team. His duties include keeping the players adequately hydrated, being a general gopher (go-fer this, go-fer that) and laundry.
But laundry duties come with the “dad” package. Laundry. How in the world did I get into a situation where I spend three to four hours a week cleaning 75 grass-stained, sweat-soaked, stink-to-high-heaven football uniforms? Well, the head coach asked and I readily answered “Yes.” After every game and through the next morning, The Bean and I collect, sort, treat, and wash some of the most sweaty, stinky and generally nasty clothes imaginable. We’ve gotten pretty darn good at it, too.
La Pistolita, my significant other, had a hard time wrapping her head around the fact I was spending my precious Saturday laundering football uniforms. My family and friends thought the same. “You have no time as it is, how are you going to spend three hours laundering football uniforms?” That is a fair point, but regardless, time is made for two reasons.
The Bean is learning how to work and how to do tasks upon which others rely. It is a great teaching tool – teamwork, efficiency and taking pride on one’s work. Most importantly, it gives The Bean a sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty cool seeing those jerseys and pants neatly folded and stacked, morphed from a pile of stink.
Secondly, it gives the coaches a few extra hours each week. These guys devote a lot of time to the school and the football team. If they’re not coaching, they’re grading papers, (they’re teachers too), fixing equipment, working on the field, studying film or taking graduate courses. They need a break. They deserve a break.
The way I see this situation, it is a win/win/win for all. The Bean is learning to take responsibility and pride in his work. The coaches have a little extra time and I get to watch it all happen. As for La Pistolita, she’s come around. My family still thinks I’m crazy.
Football season is in full swing, which takes The Bean to the sideline. He is a manager for his high school team and he cherishes his position. He loves the camaraderie and daggummit, he just loves football.
As much as he loves it, when he’s on the sideline at a game and he’s left alone, he’ll become absorbed with whatever it is he gets absorbed. Unfortunately, it isn’t the football play happening 40 yards from where he’s standing.
During the first few scrimmages (where different teams practice against each other) I thought I’d leave Das Beano to himself. I would be impressed to witness how much he matured over the past year and to observe how he magically transformed into an independent 15 year-old with no hint of Asperger’s, ADHD or OCD.
Instead, I watched him wander aimlessly around the sideline, bite his hand, yawn and plop himself on the bench. Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Temple Grandin how I should handle this very situation. Her advice was to instruct him afterward and discuss things he did right and things to be improved. Going on to the sideline, near him and instructing on the spot would only embarrass him.
However, in the past couple of weeks, watching from the stands, my instincts told me otherwise. (Yeah – I know, there have been a time or two when my instincts were really wrong.) As much as I admire and respect Dr. G. and think her western-wear rocks, I, for the time being, have made a conscious decision to, respectfully, not follow her advice.
There is a time to teach and I time to stand by. Right now, class is in session. Someone once said, and I’m paraphrasing, being the parent of a special needs child means you have to let go of your embarrassment and inhibitions, step in and do what has to be done. Be there. Be engaged. This isn’t a job for coaches or trainers – they’re busy attending to the game. Yet, each game presents wonderful learning opportunities.
I, for the life of me, will not let these golden and fleeting opportunities pass by The Bean. His job requires him to tend to tasks and interact with players. He needs to constantly water the players, keep his bottles full and listen for the long whistle signaling a timeout. With guidance, he does these, all at the same time. With immediate direction, he becomes (important concept for TheBean) engaged. Without, he falls to a zoned-out state.
Along with keeping him engaged, he needs to be shown how to be engaged. Walking up to a player who just ran off the field and asking “Hey, would you like some water?” really doesn’t cut it on the sideline. “Hold a bottle in the air and quickly shout ‘water!’ If they want it, they’ll take it.” Of course after the game, we discuss the difference between a sideline environment and the classroom. I can see it now, The Bean walking in Algebra, holding his assignment in the air and shouting “Homework!”
For the record, The Bean does not want me on the sideline. He’d rather have me roped and tied to a kitchen chair while he goes off to a game. I know there is a fine line between what he wants and what he needs and I’m trying not to stomp all over it. Right now, I’m hoping a steady dose of direction with something he loves when he’s 15 will pay off when he’s 16, 18, 35 and 65. I just hope I’m right.