Each year, our new hometown runs a major road race. 10,000 people from around the world compete, and many more watch. The town runs a kids' fun run, and Tom took part (Sara did too).
Prior to the race, I took the kids for a loooong walk, and we wound up at the tidal marsh across from our nearby beach. Sara was hot, and I gave her permission to take a swim in her clothes. Tom literally fell apart: Sara should NOT swim in her clothes, it was NOT all right, and he was going to sit himself down several hundred yards from the swimming and NOT BUDGE as a protest.
As we walked back, with a soaking Sara and a growling Tom, I asked what the problem really was. Was it that a rule had been broken? Tom said it was, and we talked about rules and breaking rules at length. Only later, when I talked with Peter about it, did I get another perspective: Peter's insight was that Tom simply couldn't abide the idea of wet clothes! Typically, Tom will change his pants if even the smallest drop of water hits them... Not sure which was true, but in the long run he sucked it up, ate an ice cream, and walked the mile and a half home with no complaints.
Later, we went to the race. This was a much bigger deal than I'd expected - with hundreds of people, loud music, hot sun, new foods.... naturally it was much harder for me than it was for Tom (who drank Gatorade for the first time and liked it - blech!) We met up (unexpectedly) with friends, which was great... But Tom's age group wound up having to RUN about 2/3 of a mile - much farther than he's ever run. He was up for it, but we weren't so sure.
Peter decided to jog along with Tommy, and together they finished the race - to great cheers from the audience (they came in half a length behind everyone but one other child). Tom was in tears - he had developed a stitch in his side - but at the very end he put on speed to cross the finish line.
Tom was proud; Dad was thrilled; Sara was supportive. Tom and Sara even got special pictures taken to commemorate the event.
I have to admit, though, that I had some strange feelings about this: the whole idea of a crowd cheering the "special" little boy was in such sharp contrast to his very real success at the concert the prior day. It just seemed so strange that the same boy who could play "The Barber of Seville" and "Take Five" on one of the toughest instruments out there - with MUCH older players - needed so much support just to finish a fun run, just didn't compute to me.
Maybe it's being 12 and on the verge of puberty, or maybe it's my own issues, but somehow Tom seems right now to be two different people. On the one hand, he's a bright and accomplished (and handsome!) kid who can do almost anything he chooses.
On the other hand, he's a special needs child who needs significant support to succeed in the most basic activities of life (carrying on conversations, managing simple changes in rules or routines, asking for help when it's needed).
Perhaps he's on the cusp of a big change - and it's up to us to be sure the change is in the right direction... eep.
Power By Ringsurf