I am totally sorry about not blogging. I have a ton of stuff to splash across the blogosphere, and a ton more stuff that I can't, but is really super important. I have to take care the stuff I can't put out to the public first right now, but I'm getting there. So I'll put out some stuff that is perfectly public-worthy.
First, the bad news. We had another major personnel shift at school- very suddenly, with no warning. We knew right away at home. Hence, roller-coaster city. Joey's anxiety has skyrocketed, and so he is barely holding it together, all the time. The smallest of upsets can put him over the edge.
When he came home from school yesterday, everything was in an uproar. Being early dismissal day, the schedule was, naturally, all screwed up. I had two edgy boys bouncing and screaming, so we gave up and went to the park to bounce and scream. It was working beautifully. The boys are especially fond of the section of the park with the new equipment. I will say up front this section of the park does have a sign stating that it is designed for the 5-and-under crowd. However, it is very typical to find kids of all ages on all the equipment, and my kids are very aware that they have to be extra gentle and extra careful in this section of the park when there are little kids about. Besides, they love to be in this section because the love to play with the little ones. The equipment is perfect for Joey's not-so-obvious mobility challenges, and the smaller kids are easier for him to play with. He also likes being the "big kid" to the little ones, and he likes how they are gentler (because they are younger). Andy also likes the little ones, and being the "big kid" leader in games. Both adore babies. They spend a good amount of time playing all over the park, including the "preschool zone." Hey, my kids still love Shaun the Sheep.
There were lots of younger ones out and about yesterday, and my boys were loving life. I was watching Joey closely as he was helping swing a baby and talking to a mom, when suddenly Andy comes running past me, with his crying face on. His smaller friend came after him. It took a few minutes for Andy to recover enough to come back from behind a large tree and talk to me.
"What happened, baby?" I asked, giving him a quick hug as he broke into tears again.
"That man said I can't play here!" he wailed, pointing. Sure enough, there was a dad, with a small boy, and a person I later realized was his wife, with a little girl. I encouraged Andy to go play with his friend, and the pair assiduously avoided the usually-favorite area in favor of running among the trees. All seemed fine, just a misunderstanding, no big deal. After all, there were several other children on the equipment in the 6-8 range, and nobody was being rough or unruly.
But as I watched, Joey finished his conversation and headed for the equipment. Sure enough, the man stopped him and started speaking with him, and Joey bounced on his heels a little, a sign he was unhappy. I got up and headed for intervention. As I closed in, I heard the man say, "This area if for the babies! You're too big to be here! Go on!" Joey repeated back, "It's for babies!" in a tone I knew was bad news.
"Go on and play, Joey," I addressed Joey firmly as he turned to me, and emphasized my words with sign, Play.
"The babies don't like me," Joey frowned at me.
"It's OK, go play," I repeated, and repeated my sign.
"This area is for the under-fives! He can't play here!" the man shouted at me.
"Excuse me, sir," I replied firmly, "but this is a public park, and my children need this kind of equipment. Joey," I repeated my sign to Joey, "go ahead, sweetheart." Joey climbed up on the equipment, and the man threw his hands up, clear exasperated.
"What, is he retarded or something?"
No, I didn't deck him. Sorry.
"Sir, this is a public park, and using that word is very offensive." He huffed off instead of answering me, saying something to his wife that made her frown and pick up the little girl. I did not pursue the point. In this state, he could easily have a concealed weapon, and I had made my point clear. I watched from my usual seat as he gestured and I could hear he was still saying things. Whatever they were, the other families were now all glaring at him. Joey called something to him, trying to include the man in his game- something Joey often does when adults are about. The man ignored him. At some point in the proceedings, another father turned to the man and something. From the sudden desist of ranting, I assume it was something to the effect of "shut up."
I should note here that neither Joey nor Andy did anything to hurt their children, block the slides, push them, or anything else that might have been dangerous, intentional or otherwise. When the little ones wanted to get down the slide, Joey moved aside and let them go, cheering when they made it to the bottom, offering encouragement when they were at the top. Joey waved at the man's little boy, that's the only contact even attempted with these particular children.
The couple finally decided to scoop up their kids and go away. Neither glanced in my direction as they went out, which was just as well.
That is when the families started coming over to me.
"What jerk." "Are you OK?" "We sure love your boy, he's so sweet." "Is your other little guy OK? He looked upset." "What was that guy's problem?" Several were upset that he had referred to Joey as "retarded" in his stream of criticism of my parenting choices.
Sometimes when we run into people like that, I sometimes wonder if it's me. I won't say he didn't have a point. I will say there were more constructive ways of communicating it.
So we need a good Ryan break.