It was 5:38 a.m. this morning when Ryan marched into our room to tell us he had been awake since 4 and couldn’t go back to sleep. He promptly climbed into bed.
I heard only bits and pieces of his conversation with Veronica before falling back to sleep, but what I heard was poignant enough to lodge in my short-term memory.
Ryan has been much more flexible with his schedule since the start of the school year. Last year, in sixth grade, he refused to even hear of taking part in any after-school activities. It was a combination of worry about the time he needed to do his homework, and wanting to preserve time to do the things he enjoys: play Hockey Guys, type hockey stats, play hockey in the backyard.
We explained to him that in middle school, after-school activities are where you make friends. It’s not like elementary school where you stay in the same class with the same group of kids all day, and are together again at lunch and recess. In middle school, you move around to different rooms with different kids. Classwork is more intense. There’s less time for socializing. He resolved to try some after-school activities this year.
And though he has yet to sign up for any clubs or join any of the school’s teams, he has been more flexible. He agreed to an eight-week after school hockey clinic that took place on weekday afternoons. He made it through his first night-time hockey practice (on the same day as the clinic, no less). He has willingly stayed after school to get extra help from his teachers. He asks Veronica to drop him off a few minutes early some morning so he can socialize. He is trying, and it’s wonderful. So far, he has conquered the increased workload and demands on his time without major incident. His schoolwork is good. He is trying to make friends.
In my sleep-deprived state this morning, I heard him say that there was a soccer game he wanted to attend. Veronica praised him for being interested and wanting to support his school team. It all sounded wonderful. And then came the reminder that nothing in this social realm comes naturally for my child.
“So who do I go to the game with — you?” he asked Veronica. “[Our sitter]?”
The last thing I remember before falling back asleep was thinking that I wish these social situations were easier for him, that it was just a matter of following the crowd (which assumes, of course, that he would be part of that crowd) and not a need to meticulously plan how each event should proceed, while worrying about the details.
But, such thoughts are a by-product of the progress he shows us on a daily basis. The interest alone is something to celebrate, even if we’re not sure of the next step.