Alex and I worked our volunteer shift at the Toy Lending Library this morning after dropping Mikey at school. It was super busy today, a rainy day at the beginning of the school year. We filled four sign-in sheets in the two hours we were there, so I know there were at minimum fifty children zooming around in there.
I caught a few glimpses of Alex as I checked people in, took their payments, and gave tours to new visitors. Every now and then, I’d spy him playing with some elephants or driving a giraffe around in a bulldozer.
But otherwise, he played by himself for two hours. I kept stopping what I was doing, in panic, because I hadn’t heard anyone screaming. Certain there’d be a disaster, I’d sprint to the other end of the toy library, but there was Alex, just riding a scooter or feeding plastic pears to a baby doll.
Twice he came up to find me at the desk. Once to nurse and another time to read an alphabet book. A few times he found some other wee friends to play with (one helped him get on a scooter, the other “helped” him eat craisins), but I really got a glimpse today of how a child can play independently.
As soon as I stopped feeling unsettled by it, I felt utter relief. I had a few conversations with other parents. I went to the bathroom by myself. I checked a text message on my phone. I can’t do any of these things, still, when Mikey is home. If I’m not worried about his safety awareness (really, his lack of it), I’m reminded of his intensity at every second. Mikey doesn’t just want to play trains–he wants me to observe him playing trains. Not play along with him, mind you, but certainly be close by and utterly focused on his play.
Alex is just totally chill. So very like his father. I had no idea children could be so different, that someone I parent exactly the same way (I think?) could just be soooooo different. Temperament is a big deal, folks.
I try very hard not to compare the children, not to sit and think of Alex’s behavior today as superior to Mikey’s. Because certainly one of the children was easier to take to the toy library than the other–but how much did I miss out on since I didn’t stick right by Alex? I only happened to glimpse him feeding pears to the baby doll. I really have no idea how he spent his time today, whether children snatched toys from him or if he drooled somewhere I should have cleaned up.
I try not to compare them. But I am not yet done marveling at what a difference there is between the personalities of my two children. Each day, I feel more relief and awareness that there was nothing I specifically did or did not do to cause Mikey’s challenging behaviors. I didn’t spoil him or cause his autism or fail to prevent it. He’s just Mikey, the way Alex is just Alex and has been from the moment he arrived.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying these moments taking such a chill kid out in the world while Mikey is in school. The two of us had a grand time this morning. I’m glad I’ll get to hang out with just Alex two days each week this year.