It’s been quite a couple of weeks in the Land-O-J. New school, new teachers, new faces (if not yet friends). Homework for the first time. Lockdown drills. Roller skating. Playdates.
Where to start? Who wants to talk school when there’s roller skating! Besides, our skate-o-rama rather encompasses Jonah and where he is right now—socially and physically. Because he loves a physical challenge, I brought up the school’s monthly skate party to test the waters. “Yes, I’d love to go ice skating!” Not ice skating love. Roller skating. “What’s that?” I explained, thinking that roller skating might actually help us work toward the ice skating dream. I’m not so sure I got it right though, because I can’t imagine anything being more difficult to learn for him than trying to control his body with eight wheels on the bottom of feet legendary for their near-constant skittering about.
With some regret that I had left my camera in the car when I discovered the lockers cost money (of Course the lockers cost money), I ended up being far more at ease participating than documenting. Besides the fact that it’s nearly impossible to take pictures while keeping a sixty pound flailing seven-year-old on his feet, I was able to enjoy the easy motion of the skates and the speed, our hair blowing and our fluid bodies. Even falling is a fluid motion on skates, and J did his fair share. He took some nasty spills, the worst of which included bomping the back of his head on a cinderblock wall when his feet got away from him. He must have fallen two dozen times, and mostly he wouldn’t let me (or the handful of sweet girls who offered) help. For the entirety of the night I trailed him like a ghost of a guardian angel, catching what I could and wincing with a certain prideful joy at his perseverance. Before bed, we discovered two narrow two-inch long bruises, one on each butt cheek nearest his tailbone.
But you know what? He got it. On the final skate of the night, he circled the inside loop of the ring twice. No wall or bar or mom to keep him steady.
And over the course of the night, kids skated past him shouting out, “Hi Jonah!” “You’ll get it Jonah!” “Want me to teach you to skate Jonah?” “It’s just like taking steps!” (Right. That helps.) Their sweetness warmed my heart and lifted an over-arching anxiety I’ve been feeling since he began at the new school. The kids like him. Okay, I know that if you know Jonah, right now you are saying, “Of course they like Jonah. Jonah is a likable kid.” (Not to mention adorable and oddly funny.) It seemed like everyone knew his name. At the end of the night, J asked me several times, “How did those kids know me?” You go to school with them don’t you J? “Yes, but they’re not all in my class!”
Maybe being the new kid has its benefits.
And then there was The Playdate.
We met a boy at our public library (I’ll call him B) sometime last spring. He and Jonah hit it off immediately. Both of them have been asking for a play date for months. B loves movies about as much as J loves movies, which it to say, A Lot. He’s a couple of years older than Jonah, but those are the kids J gravitates to. Always has.
So. It finally happened last weekend.
He and his mom came over for the afternoon. G was also ecstatic, though I knew his excitement would probably be short-lived because 1) he’s between four and six years younger than the pair of them, and 2) three is a tough number. Everything was pretty good until G walloped B with some sort of light saber/stick/bungee cord thing, mostly unintentionally. I hope. The kid just doesn’t know his own strength. What are you going to do with a three-year-old that looks like a large five-year-old? He just doesn’t get it.
So after the wallop (no bruises or red marks or lumps were visible on B), things decidedly took a downturn for G. It didn’t help that B, like G, is enamored with Lego figures and that G is incredibly particular about his Lego guys down to the very last detail (including hand color). B kept snatching them away and telling Jonah he couldn’t give them back to his brother. I won’t go into anymore details because, well, I might get mean. Let’s just say, it was clear that B doesn’t have a younger sibling/any siblings and somehow Jonah got in the middle of B testing the waters with G.
Which is to say that Jonah has very little capacity, as of yet, for standing up for himself, let alone standing up for his brother. B would tell him to do things, and even though I know he knows he wasn’t being nice, he did them. Because he was afraid B wouldn’t be his friend anymore if he didn’t. [I must add here that Jonah has stood up for me, even when he doesn’t need to. I have to be extra careful with my sometimes marital frustrations—mostly just stuff getting done around the house—because Jonah will start yelling at his dad to clean up the kitchen or give the dog a haircut or weed the garden.]
We’ve talked about this a lot, J and me. Heck, we’ve even got a social skills goal written into his IEP that involves learning to say “No.”
Whenever J gets into a situation where people are angry or upset or frustrated, whenever emotions are running high, he feels it acutely. He immediately tries to placate somebody, anybody. He knew that some of the things B was doing in regard to his brother were mean, but he played along and didn’t say anything. In his words: “I’m too scared to say anything. I’m a scaredy cat!”
I love his honesty.
So there’s work yet to do, but isn’t there always? Next time we’re meeting B at the skating rink. Even the playing field a little under the disco ball, blaring music, and black lights. G and I will have fun crashing into the walls of the practice lane.