Two lonely boys

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 1, 2019, 10:26 PM | comments: 0

Simon and I have had some solo nights lately, as Diana is working many of the Hamilton shows over its three-week run. This is typical a few times a year, and honestly I enjoy the chance to spend some one-on-one time with my boy.

Something I've noticed though is that Simon can get borderline desperate for attention with us. I think there are a lot of things to unpack there, not the least of which is that he's an only child. I wish I would have had the courage in the years immediately after his birth to really be enthusiastic about adoption (and maybe I would have been if I stayed at Microsoft, as the company would have paid some of the expense), but given the amount of attention he requires due to his challenges, I'm selfishly OK with the fact we didn't go that route. He generally seeks a lot of adult attention.

What he lacks is a lot of meaningful friendships with his peers. Two years ago there was a little girl in one of his classes that he really bonded with, and she was exceptionally kind to him, but he hasn't had that friendship opportunity since. He has exactly the same class this year as last, which is great for teacher consistency, but those kids just aren't his people. I fear he's largely given up on many of the neighborhood kids too, because Simon ends up being "it" for all of the tag games, and he's just not good at playing sports with them. An ASD kid can already be perceived as a little weird, but one also has a hard time keeping up with all of the arbitrary rule changes to games that kids make.

Simon has expressed his loneliness to me, and it's heartbreaking. I just don't know what to do with it. I hope that he'll connect with someone in school next year, or that he sticks with swimming and joins a team, or some random, kind kid in the neighborhood will sort of look after him. Certainly he can be happy by himself, when he loses himself in the bliss of playing a computer game for a few hours, or laughing his ass off at the Lego Batman Movie for the millionth time.

I can relate to him a ton. There's little doubt that I was the weird kid in school, and my self-awareness about this got serious in middle school, and worse in high school. I too was content to mess around with my computer or close myself in my room to listen to music and play through Super Mario on my Gameboy again. It wasn't until I started working a retail job that I branched out a bit, but beyond that I was socially isolated in high school and didn't like many people, and frankly I was probably the weird kid to a lot of folks. The girls who played volleyball were very kind to me (and especially their parents), but we didn't hang out socially, for the most part. At some point I made out with a random band geek I met at a basketball game for a week or two, but that was it. I was never looking for validation via social interaction, which is to say that I didn't need to be liked or popular, I just wanted to make deeper connections.

There were two adults in my high school life that had a huge impact on me. The first was the athletic director, who got me involved with girls volleyball and paid me to do a number of jobs for the athletic department. The other was my boss from the city, who paid me to run camera at city council meetings. They took an interest in me, and as far as I was concerned, I didn't need friends if I got to operate a score board or a video camera. This was typical of my teen years, in that I desperately wanted to be a grownup and do grownup things, because grownups respected me.

If I were to project my own experience on Simon, I imagine that he has the same capacity for social interaction as I do, and that there is definitely a limit to the capacity of his "social batteries." Sometimes you just need to recharge, and I try to be sensitive to that. He definitely gravitates toward adults. I also bet that he has little use for relatively superficial relationships. This is probably the hardest thing about my personality. I have little use for trivial relationships because the energy required to maintain them is exhausting. I've always been at my most content when I've had some small number of deep friendships, and some people just magically qualify for that status. Over the years I've had a few of these, and many have been geographically distributed, unfortunately. Obviously, I've also had some romantic relationships that also qualify.

So it's me and the boy these few weeks. Understand that I have no negative feelings toward Diana and her job. Quite the contrary, I love that she loves what she does, and shit, she gets to see a lot more Hamilton than I ever will! But I definitely get a little lonely, which is why I invest the time in Simon. I don't want to orchestrate his social development, but I sure hope he makes some solid friends.


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