Thursday, March 25, 2010

Just say thank you

So I'm picking up Ben from school today and I end up chatting for a moment on the playground with the dad of one of Ben's classmates.

The dad is one of those guys who has a big friendly handshake and a big friendly smile. He's the guy you want manning the grill at your backyard BBQ, the guy you want to show up to help you change your flat tire, the guy who probably routinely says, "The more the merrier!" and means it.

And his son "J" seems like one of the most easy-going, friendly kids I've ever seen. It's no wonder J was the first kid that Ben identified as his friend when he started kindergarden last fall.

J's dad and I talked about the nice weather returning, how we should plan a pot luck picnic for the class at a park this spring, and what our kids were up to.

He mentioned that J was starting baseball this week.

"Would Ben ever be interested in playing baseball?"

Okay. What I should have done is accept this conversational volley as the open door it was meant to be. What I should have said is, "I don't know, but I heard Ben hit a home run in the baseball game in PE this week! I'll ask him!"

But instead, I rambled on about Ben not being quite a team sports kid yet, that he didn't really understanding the give and take that team sports requires. That we were doing gymnastics and swimming this summer, but maybe stuff like baseball and soccer were still a bit beyond him.

Then I felt that eyes-glazing-over chill suddenly go through the air.

And then imagined the sound of my hand slapping my forehead.

Why? Why? Why did I blow this?

Why did I feel compelled to spell out Ben's differences for this guy? It's probably true that Ben isn't ready to be on a baseball team, but who cares? This guy was nice enough to ask.

Oh, and did I mention that he's the coach of his kids' team? The coach of a kids' baseball team was asking if Ben might be interested in baseball? I don't want to say he was trying to take Ben's cleat measurements, but it was clearly an invitation of some sort.

I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in our kids' special needs and differences that we observe them with almost clinical precision. We start to think about our kids in terms of their IEP goals: Is Ben using suggestive rather than commanding language when making a request of peers in 4 out of 5 observed attempts?

To which a lot of people might just say, "Oh well. Aren't a lot of six year olds bossy?"

And maybe we're so used to advocating for them and making others aware of their needs and being on alert that we go into "full disclosure" mode out of habit.

I need to remember that sometimes, people see Ben and don't just see his differences. They see a playmate, or one of the kindergartners in room 6, or a kid who could be on a baseball team.

And that's what I want, after all.

That, and a chance at a do-over so I can go back and accept this man's lovely overture with the grace and gratitude that it deserved.