During the seemingly unending period of waiting for a referral during our adoption, one of the things I dreamed of doing was spending time on the playground in the South Florida sun with our munchkin. Four plus years into parenting, however, I almost always find playground outings to be stressful. I tend to avoid them altogether unless Jackson absolutely presses me for a visit. Such was the case with a recent school holiday. Jackson had a lot of energy to burn and really wanted to go to a nearby playground with “the dark slide.” He really did need to get out beyond the confines of our backyard, so I acquiesced.
As soon as we arrived at the playground, Jackson made a beeline to “the dark slide.” He’s unable to climb the ladder himself and requires my assistance in placing his feet on each rung while I tell him where to place his hands. This also requires me to physically support his bottom. As is usually the case, and was on this day too, the other children literally climb over Jackson, pushing both of us aside. Jackson never, ever says a word. Upon reaching the top Jackson had no intention of going down the slide. He was content with the view and told me the slide was spooky, which didn’t surprise me in the least. He would enter the opening of the slide and then come back out when a child wanted to come down. At one point a little girl ascended the ladder to the platform. She was slightly younger then Jackson and rather intrigued by him. He crossed his arms and loudly instructed her to leave him alone and told her emphatically he didn’t want to be her friend, something he had been doing continually to children during our playground visit. This little girl, however, didn’t move on as the other children had done. She reacted by roaring at Jackson—loudly. Very loudly. It was sensory overload. He jabbed his fingers behind his ears, his typical coping mechanism, and became completely paralyzed. He began to scream shrilly and shout, “Stop roaring!” Of course the more he did this the more the little girl roared. Her mother, who spoke very limited English, couldn’t stop chuckling over her little girl as she caused Jackson to scream and shout. Try as I might I couldn’t get him to descend the ladder or go down the slide. After what seemed like an eternity (but in realty was only a few minutes) I finally coaxed him down the slide. Blessedly he was ready to go home.
Jackson was no worse for the wear. In fact, he never made mention of the incident again. I’m the one with the lasting emotional scars. I’m the one who bears the heartbreak of the day—of seeing the little boy who’s afraid of slides, who doesn’t want to play with other children, who spends an inordinate amount of time with his little fingers pressed behind his ears and is pushed aside like he’s insignificant. They say ignorance is bliss, and for all intents and purposes, Jackson is blissfully unaware—for now. I don’t know if that makes me happy or sad. What I do know is that I simply want Jackson to have a great childhood—the childhood I dreamed of giving him during those years of waiting.