For the past few weeks, I’ve been mulling over a post about our family’s newest hobby. At the tender young ages of 45 and 49 respectively, my husband and I have taken up skateboarding. I don’t mean tooling around, meandering the neighborhood, while taking in the sights. We’re hanging with the big dogs at our local skate parks. No. We’re not crazy. This came about because of the importance we place on family time. Jackson loves to ride his scooter, and he’s very good at it. He’s agile. He’s graceful. And he’s FAST. When Jackson scoots around the neighborhood, safety dictates that I run in tandem with him so I can monitor driveway traffic. This means I’m sprinting for one to three miles at a given time. One recent Sunday afternoon, we took Jackson to the skate park simply as an outlet for him. My husband and I decided to give it a try too, so we could make the outings truly about family. We’ve been hooked ever since.
I had so many amusing things to say in my originally intended post. I was going to speak about the fact that I skate with orthotics in my Vans and use an SPF of 50 religiously. I was going to talk about the fact that it takes a good 15 minutes to get the joints, tendons and bones adequately lubed in my feet and ankles. And I was also going to mention how tolerant and even accepting most of the young whippersnappers are. Aside from a few occasionally potty-mouthed teens (which are dutifully kept in check by fearless skate park manager Michelle), we’ve not had a bad experience. Until today, that is.
As is with most Sunday afternoons as of late, we went to our local skate park following church. Our friend, Paul, joined us. The four of us were having a great time. We skated and scooted hard, working up a sweat. We were all attempting new things and chatting up the really young kids who are beyond encouraging. Jackson was doing his thing, going up and down hills and riding his scooter around the park. I was standing on top of a hill with my new “friend,” Sam, when a young boy ascended the ramp and stopped in front me. The boy was around eight or so. He mumbled something to me but I didn’t understand what he said. I asked him to repeat himself, which he did. He said, “Make him stop.” I asked, “Make him stop what?” He said, “Skating. He’s creeping me out.” I was utterly taken aback, but replied, “No. He’s just scooting.” He said, “No. He’s not,” and skated away. I knew exactly what he was referring to.
Sam, also around 8, overheard the conversation and asked me what the boy was talking about. I simply explained that Jackson sometimes makes noises. I loved Sam’s muttered reply to the already-gone boy, “Get over it.” I wasn’t completely surprised this happened. I expected it. Someday. Nonetheless, I wasn’t prepared for it.
You see, Jackson verbally self stimulates. [http://www.autism.com/index.php/symptoms_self-stim] He makes sounds. All. Day. Long. Seriously. He’s done it for years and rarely stops, if ever. I took Jackson to the skate park on a school holiday this past week. I chose not to skate with him, as we were running some errands afterward. As I watched Jackson from the observation deck, I heard him clearly. He was uttering endless variations of completely nonsensical words and sounds. I could see some of the older children looking at him with curiosity. It was in watching the kids’ reactions that I knew someone someday would say something. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. He’s only five. Five! For Pete’s sake, Jackson’s only five.
My initial gut reaction (which I DID NOT act upon) was to say, YOU creep ME out, you little brat.” THANK YOU, LORD, for reigning in my tongue. You can come at me all day long; just don’t you dare come at those I love. I will defend my brood to the end. I promise you that.
I’m profoundly sad about today’s event. I get a lump in my throat every time I call it to memory. I’m not sad for myself, mind you. I’m sad for Jackson and the unkind people he will encounter throughout his life. He has such tenderness about him. Heck. This is the boy that asks every single person who falls at the skate park (and there are many), “Are you okay?” He’s kind. He’s considerate. He’s loving. He’s trusting. And people are going to break his heart and crush his spirit. That’s the nature of us human beings. As a whole, we don’t tolerate different no matter the age. The mere thought of this shatters my heart.