Thursday, February 14, 2008

Maple Laughs


Mister Jeff stopped me with a concerned expression. "The children aren't allowed to wear Toronto Maple Leaf logos in the gym," he explained apologetically. I panicked. Was it a conflict with the Disney sponsorship? A violation of the gym policy code I had never read very carefully? "Do you have something else he could wear - a Montreal Canadiens shirt, perhaps?"

I shook my head, now thoroughly alarmed. "I don't have any other shirts with me right now!"

Finally he relented, cracking a smile. "I'm just pulling your leg."

I am an idiot.

*****

Bub radiates happiness this week. His voice is louder than usual, his expression more animated. "I have a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt!" he tells Mister Jeff proudly. It has a hood; it's just like the one Rory wears at nursery school; it's just like the one in The Hockey Sweater (a story that Bub has not, perhaps, thoroughly understood).

His world has expanded. It includes friendly faces everywhere, random strangers to whom he can show his Bee Movie valentines, his Danger Ranger videos, his hoods and sweaters and backpacks. He approaches these encounters with the brash confidence of a true amateur, shouting just a bit too loudly, as if he were at a pie social at the nursing home. More than once, his intended target has simply failed to observe his friendly attempts at conversation. If someone standing a foot away shouts, "Hey guy! It's a Cars backpack!" one can be pardoned for assuming that the child is directing his messages at someone else - someone much farther away, perhaps, or clinically hard of hearing.

He has better success at nursery school. "I said hello to that guy!" Bub announced jubilantly yesterday, gesturing toward a little girl in a red Valentine's dress. He knows that I will be proud, knows that adults set great store by these odd rituals of social interaction. As I gather up his boots and coat, I see him pointing to her bejeweled Crocs, looking up at her face and uttering what clearly appears to be a compliment. She's too young to notice a certain oddness in the way he bends down and looks upward to establish eye contact; she smiles, says something I can't hear with an open, friendly expression.

"I can wear the Crocs tomorrow," Bub announces as we drive away. "Boys don't like to wear Crocs. 'Yes we do!' all the boys said. Boys like to wear Crocs too!" With his dawning awareness of the social world, Bub is in the best, happiest place - he has discovered the joy of social interaction, but not yet the sting of social rejection. Riding the tide of his burgeoning confidence, I can almost forget to be afraid.

35 comments:

minnesotamom said...

What a sweetheart! I would let him wear my Crocs, too.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we were all able to interact as we chose without fear of rejection? Granted, it might be a lot weirder place, but better, methinks.

wheelsonthebus said...

He seems to be finding his way. Hmmm. I wonder who has been helping him...

Bon said...

you paint this so vividly i can almost see him.

sometimes i almost believe that there is flexibility in this strange social realm, different ways to be that are okay. we all miss cues - as you point out in your Leafs story - and sometimes, there is just great laughter to be had from that.

i too want to forget to be afraid.

Veronica Mitchell said...

Such innocent joy. And you are raising him to be strong enough to face the other stuff when it comes.

KAL said...

I know what you mean, completely. I think all kids, spectrum ones or not, will experience that sting once in awhile. All I have to do is think back to third grade. I think everything is helped though by having a mom who can relate and understand. I enjoyed how you began this post with your Mister Jeff encounter.

Niksmom said...

How sweet that he's discovering the joys of social discourse with the world. Yes, he will certainly feel the sting...we all have and do from time to time. But with his loving mama to help him weather the storms, I don't think you have anything to truly worry about. Not in the capital W sense of the word. :-)

Magpie said...

That's so great.

bren j. said...

First the Cars backpack, now the Crocs...what's next? A new hybrid car? :) Cute story. That's funny about the Leafs shirt. Hah!

Maddy said...

It's the 'almost' thats the killer.
Best wishes

niobe said...

Your first anecdote sounds like something that would happen to me. And I'm pretty sure something very like it has.

Jenifer said...

I would so fall for something like that...in fact I have!

How wonderful for Bub that this other world is opening up to him.

Hairline Fracture said...

I would have believed Mr. Jeff too. I'm so gullible!

So glad Bub is learning to interact with other kids. I'm cherishing this time with my daughter because the kids haven't learned to be mean yet.

Mimi said...

Happy Birthday! And look at Bub acting like a kid, and hockey sweater? Jeff totally got you. (Just catching up ...)

Mad Hatter said...

Um, a sports metaphor one week and now a hockey analogy. What is going on over there, Bea?

BTW, every morning Miss M says to us at home: "I'm NOT going to say hi to Sarah today. Sarah is NOT my friend." Each day, I drop her off at day care and she says "Hi, Sarah! Mommy I said hi to Sarah." Sigh.

Gwen said...

I'm glad to hear how Bub is making his way in the world. It makes my heart smile for him and for you.

Beck said...

I am the easiest person in the world to fool - I suspect because of my pure and childlike nature.

It's so NICE when our children suddenly realize that there's a whole world of people who might be their friends. I pray that Bub finds a path lined with smiling, welcoming faces his whole life.

kgirl said...

Mister Jeff is quite the comedian.
(Leaf's fan harrumphs.)

Blog Antagonist said...

You know, people make fun of sports parents, but...there is something very valuable about being a part of a team. Which, I gather, Bub is finding out. I'm glad he's enjoying it so much.

Luisa Perkins said...

I also would have been fooled by Mister Jeff.

Janet said...

I sometimes wish we could pause them in that state between social interaction and rejection.

Omaha Mama said...

A pie social in a nursing home. That made me giggle. My girl makes these same proclamations - only speaks in such a high octave at such a high pace that people don't usually even catch what she has said. Look at my new pony! My mom gave me a piece of gum! My ponytail holder is pink!

nomotherearth said...

Oh how sweet he is. The Boy and he would be a fine pair - they could talk at length about their respective backpacks. The Boy never fails to tell each person that he has a Diego backpack. Every. Day.

Julie Pippert said...

Awww, it's a beautiful place. And...so far, I don't think it entirely goes away (yet, kindie).

jen said...

this is a truly lovely moment in time.

ewe are here said...

I wish no child had to feel the sting of rejection.

He sounds just lovely.

Stimey said...

This is so wonderful. It is fabulous to see the little guys finally open up to other kids.

Lisa b said...

I like Mister Jeff but you are not an idiot by any stretch.

What a lovely story.

Cyndi said...

How sweet. It is amazing how early that social rejection starts. I really thought I had several more years, but as soon as there are friends, there are people who are rejected.

edj said...

My kids are hyper-social and talkative, and I have cringed many times as they try to engage adults in interactions only to get ignored. I understand both sides; the adult who doesn't realize what's going on, and the dejectedness of my kids who feel ignored.
I really enjoyed this post. I love hearing about Bub's new skills. He's so cute.

Jolyn said...

My daughter has been known to holler at people out the car window when we're stopped at a stoplight. She's five, and it still never occurs to her that not everyone wants to talk to her. Whenever the doorbell rings: postman; plumber; whoever -- she runs to the door, "It's a new customer!" Like they're coming just for her conversation.

Angela said...

Smiles are so great. It is hard to let them find their own way in the world.

MamaDrama said...

"I can almost forget to be afraid."
Gives me chills. Heartbreaking chills.

But I'm so proud of him, and proud of his teachers and of you, because if he's been able to get this far without the social rejection part, that's the best possible start. Social rejection starts scarily early, and this good foundation will help him through. I will just pray for kind compassionate souls in kindergarten and beyond.

Angela said...

This is so sweet....makes me smile. And you should totally get him a SABRES jersey. He could wear that!

Kit said...

Social interaction has to be the scariest thing for a parent - to have to sit back and watch - we can't help or do it for them.

My two girls are both having a hard time with it at the moment. My seven year old has encountered that cruel girl thing of "If you don't give me that/ do this I won't be your friend any more" and my five year old is painfully shy and trying to enter a rather wild kindergarten group - she hangs on to the one girl she knows and dissolves if she can't sit next to her or is expected to hold someone else's hand.

letter9 said...

When I become a big famous rock star, I am totally naming my first album "a pie social at the nursing home." LOVE THAT!

Here's to amateurish overconfidence. : )