I was reading back on some old journal entries and I came across one from the fall that said I was looking forward to winter. As much as I am sick of winter right now, my first spring 2005 excursion to the park with Jonah reminded me why I had so looked forward to winter in the first place.
We went to the Crossings, which is this brand spanking new playground in Loudonville (one of the wealthier suburbs of Albany). The playground has all kinds of swings and climbing structures and whatnot, and it’s all on top of this spongy “floor” material so that kids don’t get hurt if they fall.
Jonah loves it. So I drove him down the other day, the first really nice day of the year. It was in the mid 50s and there were about a zillion kids and parents all over the place.
So Jonah jumps right into the fray and starts running around. He does the normal kid thing for a while, running up ramps that lead to slides, going down the slide, running around some more…
Then he gets obsessed with a firetruck climbing thing, and he wants to sit at one particular steering wheel, even though there are several others. So if another kid is on it, he will literally climb right on top of the kid to get to the wheel. Sometimes I can distract him, or the other kid will move over on the bench to the next steering wheel. But if I try to physically remove Jonah, he’ll do this high-pitched “nnnnhhh nhhhh nhhhh” sound and scream and kick and flail.
(Even when he’s happy, he emits a near-constant grunt. That, along with the fact that he doesn’t talk, gets us some stares). “He has autism,” I explain to every parent who will listen. (Usually they are more understanding if they know this).
Luckily, Jonah loses interest in the firetruck thing but then discovers the sandbox/pit. Normally this would be fine, but there’s police tape wound around orange traffic cones at each corner, and a muddy mess in the middle. It’s too early in the season for sandbox play, but Jonah wants in.
At first he circles the area, slowly caressing the shiny yellow tape. Then he gets a sly look on his face and dips a toe into the pit. I tolerate this for a while and try to divert him into a “get you get you!” game of chase.
So finally I have had enough of him not listening to me — one time he gets bold and walks right into the mud. So I say “No!” and lift him out of there. He screams, reaches up, grabs my glasses, and flings them to the ground. Instinctively I put him down, and off he goes across the playground at full speed, yelling like a banshee. Now I can’t see to find my glasses, so I’m down on the ground feeling around for them. (There are parents and kids all over the place and no one does a thing to help me).
Finally my hand hits the frames and I put the glasses back on. Then I have to find Jonah in the fray of playground activity. I locate him on one of his trips around a wide pattern he’s circling, and I grab him up, holding him sideways under my arm.
People are staring and it’s a hundred feet or so to the car. Burning with humiliation, exhaustion, anger, and frustration, I reach the car. I unlock the door and he uses the opportunity to yank the glasses off my face again, and they go sailing across the asphalt of the parking lot. Now tears are welling in my eyes.
He jams his feet up against the inside of the car door and holds on to the door frame, screaming bloody murder. I pray my glasses do not get crunched beneath one of the ubiquitous SUVs as I desperately try to get Jonah into the car. As it turns out, I have to kind of cram him in the car seat…and I am thinking if any motherfucker even thinks about calling social services, I will kill them with my bare hands.
Once he is secured in the car seat, I retrieve my scratched glasses & the tears begin to fall.
All the way home Jonah is screaming and I am crying.
I can’t believe I’d forgotten how it was to take him to the park. And now he’s even older so he attracts even more attention. And I can’t stand people thinking I don’t know how to control my kid, or that he’s just a spoiled brat. I can see it in their eyes… the judgment, the assumptions. I fucking hate it.
Andy tells me just not to take him to the park anymore. “I’ll take him,” he offers calmly, and I nod in defeat.
I have no idea why Andy can handle it so much better than I can. But he can, and thank God, he does.
I am seriously thinking about getting contacts. But then the kid will probably scratch my fucking eyes out.
Oh, and then our tax lady calls and says we owe $1300 to the feds and $400 to state — plus $100 to pay her. (It’s because I have that writing job I’m always bragging about — they don’t take taxes out & I never seem to send enough estimated payments during the year).
So now we’re broke as well.