I have never felt more alone in a room full of people than I did yesterday morning. We were at Christopher’s preschool sports class, and he was the only one refusing to participate. In fact, he was trying to escape, which is not unusual for him to do when he finds himself in an uncomfortable situation, which is often.
In the past few months Chris has tried to run away from me in an eye doctor’s office, a house party, and many stores. The fight or flight response is strong in him, and he tends to choose flight!
So, as other moms bounced younger siblings on their knees and chatted over coffee, or even joined their children in chasing bright green tennis balls around the gym, I sat on the floor next to the door, poised to run after him if Chris managed to actually push open the heavy door. I tried gently coaxing him into playing with the other kids but his response remained steadfast- a firm “NO!”
As the other children gathered in the welcome circle and began to sing, Chris plopped himself into my lap and put my hands over his ears. I saw Coach A glance over at us and then whisper something to Coach M. I felt my face redden a bit, after all I was the mom of THAT kid. The one that wanted nothing to do with all the fun that was happening and rudely kicked at the tennis ball that had been offered up by Coach M. Still, I was determined to stay. Having just turned three, I feel that it is time for Chris to participate in activities with kids his own age, and to step outside his comfort zone. Even if it takes a ton of effort on my part.
Toward the end of class, the coaches set up the obstacle course, and that is when Chris decided to join in the fun. At first he held my hand tightly and I walked with him through the hula hoops, over the balance beam, across the rope ladder, and zig-zagging through the cones. Soon, he let go and began racing through by himself. That is when Coach A approached me.
Oh no, I thought, now is when he is going to tell me that maybe this class isn’t right for Chris.
Instead, Coach A came up to me and told me that he was going to let Coach M take the lead because she is more soft-spoken and he noticed that Christopher doesn’t like loud sounds.
“Don’t be afraid to remind me, either!” He said, “I’m naturally loud, but we will adjust to fit his needs.”
Grateful does not even begin to describe how I felt in that moment.
“Thank you so much!” I said. “He is being evaluated for a possible sensory processing problem and he gets overwhelmed very easily.”
“Yeah, I figured it was something like that,” Coach A responded. “Don’t worry. Just do what you’re doing and let him join in at his own pace. We will try to adjust to make it more comfortable for him, but he can join in or sit out as much as he wants.”
And from there, Coach A gathered up all the kids to say goodbye and let Chris hold the special hand stamp. While the toddlers waited in line for their stickers, another mom turned to me, shaking her head at something her own little guy was doing, and remarked on how unpredictable children are at this age.
“When you come to a class like this, you never know how they will react on any given day!” she said.
And so, I wasn’t alone. An awesome coach let me know that my son would not be excluded, no matter what. And another mom reminded me that toddlers are unpredictable, no matter what problems lay beneath the surface. It means the world to me to know that when I am the lone mother sitting by the door to keep her kid from escaping, I am not truly alone, but in solidarity with mothers of toddlers everywhere, and with people who just understand that kids aren’t easy, and that sometimes-extra care must be given.