To the judgemental onlookers…
We are in a new place in a large arena.
My son has never been here.
In a setting with thousands of people around.
My son likes routine. This is something new.
My son likes familiarity. This is chaos.
My son just had a tremendous day.
He volunteered to pour snacks for others at snack time.
He gave up a preferred seat happily and redirected himself.
He requested to go out to eat and was an angel in the restaurant.
He transitioned well 100% of the time today.
So as a reward, we went somewhere new today. An open area to run. Bouncy Houses to play in, hands-on activities. Papa even came with us.
But the lines at the bouncy houses were too long. There were too many people around to do any crafts or coloring. My son couldn’t run around as he likes when he is overstimulated or stressed because he would get lost in the mass of people.
But despite that, Papa let him try (as Papa’s often will).
My son didn’t run away. My son held his Papa’s hand to make sure Papa stayed with HIM. My son took Papa all over the arena.
My son had FUN! The noises were loud, the place was like a zoo, and my son was having fun!
And when it was time to leave, when bedtime was fast approaching and when I put him in his stroller, my son ‘told’ me he did not want to leave. My son wanted to have more fun. With papa. Running around. But it was time to go.
Yes. my son hit me. In the face.
And I didn’t scold him.
I didn’t correct his behavior. I didn’t punish him.
I held him as he hit me. I loved him through the outburst. Because I am his parent and that is my job.
I put him back in his stroller. Back to familiarity, and the outburst subsided.
My son doesn’t really talk, and he is working on his communicating. And I can tell the difference between communication and malice.
And I won’t punish him for communicating with me.
Because when his attempts at communication are met with negative reinforcement, “hitting” would be the least of our problems.
As a parent, I know that we are in a public setting, that if he melts down, he will not go back into his stroller, and that the car is parked a quarter-mile away.
Yes my son hit me in the face. And I didn’t do anything about it.
Because unbeknownst to you, judgemental onlooker, today was a good day.
Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (9) and Jonah (4) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.