Wicket and I went to the playground by the fire station this morning. Boba was still grouchy and not feeling well, so he stayed home. It’s been awhile since just Wicket and I had time together, by ourselves. When Tim and I “divide and conquer,” our typical weekend plan of action where he takes one child and I take the other and we go our separate ways to try and get them to chill the eff out, Tim usually takes Wicket and I take Boba. So it was nice, just the two of us.
The playground was funded by the Jonesboro Optimist Club, so it’s called Optimist Park. I like that. I like to think of myself as an optimist. It was abandoned this morning; we had it to ourselves. “Why do we have it to ourselves?” he asked. “Because no one else is here, babe.” “Why is no one here?” “I don’t know. But we have the whole place to ourselves.”
There’s a paved path that goes around the outside of the playground, around the fire station, and back to the parking lot. A nice, big circle. When we go, the boys bring their scooters and love to scoot around and around the big circle. I follow on foot, hoofing it a bit to get some exercise and to try my best to keep up. There are some places where the path crosses the parking lot, and my impulsive boys don’t always stop when they’re supposed to.
Today, Wicket was FAST. Scooting his little booty off. We did three laps together, and each time he got further and further ahead of me until finally I was on one side of the fire station and he was on the other, where I couldn’t see him. He was on the side where the path crosses the parking lots and goes awfully close to the street. I had a moment of near-panic, but reined it back in and trusted that the countless lessons of “Stop and look for cars when you see the yellow lines” would pay off. I sat down on a picnic bench near the playground and just…waited. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t poised to hear brakes screeching, a child’s voice yelling, etc. But in a minute (that seemed like longer), he came scooting around the corner of the building.
He came over to where I was sitting and wanted to know why I stopped. “It’s so hot, little man. I’m going to drink some water and do some work.” “Do I have to stop?” “No, hon. You go ahead.” He decided he wanted to run this time, so he proceeded to run around the big circle twice, his little arms pumping like crazy, a determined look on his face. I didn’t follow him, just did some reading (Reformation Project!), and…waited. And he was fine. Two times around running, and he came running back to me, sweaty and grinning.
And then it hit me…today is August 25. Three years ago, on August 25, we received Wicket’s autism diagnosis.
I remember the day in vivid detail–the various steps and tests along the way, resisting the urge to reach out and help him when they asked him to do something he couldn’t do, carrying 4 month-old Boba in the Ergo carrier all day, the prickly feeling in my skin when they finally said the word out loud, the silence in the car ride on the way home as Wicket finally napped out of exhaustion and Tim and I tried to allow things to sink in.
GOOD LORD, we have come a long way in three years. All of us. Wicket, in his skills and adaptations, his personality, strength, courage, curiosity, affection; us in our ability to handle the challenges. And while we still have many, while we still doubt and question and shake our fists at the sky occasionally, we are growing and adapting along with him.
Wicket’s little voice calling across the playground snapped me back into my connection with him, and he asked if I could come play with him for awhile. “Of course, sweetness. Let me just finish up here.” But I didn’t ever get back to my reading, because I got caught up in watching him play, watching him PRETEND to put out a fire on the playground (suck it, “no pretend play skills”). In the pic below, he’s holding the “hose” in his hand.
And a few weeks ago, on this same playground, I watched him run and play with a new friend, a total stranger he met…he asked this little boy his name, told him his own, and then proceeded to chase him around like a maniac. They laughed and squealed and I smiled, thinking how one day not too long ago we wondered if it’d be difficult for him to make friends.
So…while this anniversary leaves me with mixed emotions, today I am choosing the positive. Choosing to be an optimist. He’s come so far and grown so much. He is an incredibly bright, adventurous, affectionate boy with so much potential.
Optimist Park indeed.