Monday, March 14, 2011

What Happened at the Playground

Every day Ethan gets out of school at the same time as this pack of boys whose mothers are friends. There are twin boys who are kindergarteners, and two other brothers who are about 5 and 3, I'd say if I had to guess. Every day these boys tear out of school and start running ahead of their moms up the sidewalk. They head over to the playground area and run around, over, and up and down the equipment. Their energy is boundless. Every day Ethan watches them and wants to go on the playground, too. Today I decided to let him.

"Are they supposed to be on there?" I asked, hanging back to talk to the moms. They both shrugged. "No one's yelled at us yet," one said with a laugh. "They've got to do something to get all of that energy out." I was just about to delve into more conversation when I noticed all of the boys were gathered around Ethan at the top of the ladder on the play structure, laughing. I headed closer.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" they were all calling. "He pooped his pants! Ha Ha!" Ethan was looking at them in a half-bewildered, half-amused, little bit annoyed kind of way, since they were blocking the slide. He didn't get it at all. I looked at his pants. The back of him was soaked because the slide had been wet. "He's just wet from the slide," I said quietly. The other moms came over. I could tell they were embarrassed.

"Boys! Stop that!" one of them chided. "You play nice or you won't play at all." The boys ran off. The moms went back to talking. Ethan went down the slide, oblivious to what had just happened.
I knew these kids weren't making fun of Ethan's autism and this could have occurred with any boy they didn't know who had intruded on their little group, but in a flash I saw a glimpse of the future, and of the past. I thought of the whispers and snickers when I was young because I just didn't look right or talk right or fit in, and how it hurt so incredibly deeply. I saw Ethan in classrooms with typical kids, talking behind their hands, whispering, teasing, ignoring. My heart in that moment hurt so bad I felt as if a dagger were being driven through it.

I could feel my eyes welling with tears. Is this what "inclusion" will be like? I wondered. I saw myself volunteering in one of Ethan's classrooms down the road, watching kids treat him unkindly while trying to secretly wipe away my tears. How can I do this, God? I pleaded. Ethan may not understand, but my skin is about 20 shades too thin.

The boys and their moms headed home, and as Ethan continued to play, an image suddenly jumped into my mind of Jesus, headed to the cross, hearing insults hurled at him by people who just did not understand. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses...That verse from Hebrews ran through my mind. I felt a peace, a comfort begin to settle me.

Then I remembered the verse I'd read the night before --Matthew 19:14:

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Ethan looked up at me with this huge, adoring grin from the slide. Something about his look stopped my tears in their tracks. His innocence took my breath away. I felt a Mamma Bear kind of pride swell in me, the kind that wanted to hug him until it hurt and that wouldn't for the life of me trade my boy for a typical one. Is Ethan a perfect, sinless little angel? Most certainly not. But something about his loving spirit, his inability to be mean and hurtful (at least right now), illuminated just a little better what that often-quoted verse actually means.

Isn't it sad the way learning to lie and deceive, to be mean and intentionally hurtful, are milestones that mark childhood development? It's as if, as we grow, our nature grows further away from what God intended, and continues to falter without our conscious effort to allow Him to bring us back. Those with special needs do not drift quite so far. The world may mock them, but they are closer to God than we may ever know.


Miss G said...

Hi Deb, I came over from Beth Moore's blog. I too am memorizing verses. I like to visit a couple of the other blogs of people who have linked up each month. I just read through the entire front page of your blog and you write just beautifully. You can tell that you are letting God work in and through you. I pray that you continue to find blessings day in and day out. Kelly

Deb said...

Thanks for the feedback, Kelly. I appreciate the encouragement. I love Beth Moore's blog and love checking out other blogs on there, too. :)

Brenda said...

Of course you are scared. You have every right to be. You want the best for your child. ((hugs)) Know that there are many of us out there, looking out for each other. And there are many, many kids who will love our kids, too.

Jenny Coe said...

I love your writing. I felt through your blog that you wated to protect your son and at the same time you realize life is out there so you want to trust God too. I understand those feelings with both boys having their food allergies...I want them to be "in" but at the same time I need to protect them. :)

Deb said...

Yes, that's exactly it, Jenny. Don't we all feel that way as moms, sometimes? I'm sure the food allergies bring up those issues in you often. The good news about this story is that it has a happier ending. We went back to the playground a few days later and Ethan played alongside the boys for a half-hour. No teasing, I chatted with the moms and talked a bit about Ethan, and Ethan exchanged goodbyes with the kids when we left. These issues will come up again, but it was nice to witness some encouraging moments.