Johnny had gymnastics today. It is the one special thing that he has been able to do since he was 3, and he loves it. I make sure he always gets to class, because he's spent so much time getting dragged around to James's appointments, I feel it is the least we can do to let him have something that is just his. Plus, it turns out, he's pretty damn good at it.
James, however, hates gymnastics days. It is a huge, loud warehouse facility. Music blares, kids scream, coaches yell. There is a constant thumping of handsprings going across the mats below us. It is usually very hot and it ALWAYS smells like sweat and socks. James can't stand to be in the place, and usually needs to sit on my lap or my legs, causing me to sit in pain for the hour. I watch the clock and try to watch Johnny, but I'm usually focused on making sure things stay calm directly around us.
The incredibly complex thing about James is that he really wants to connect with people and tries very hard at it, he just has a hard time figuring out HOW to do it. One time when kids were playing superheroes, he announced he was "Super Traffic Light". He totally thought he was playing with them and they were completely ignoring him. I was devastated watching it. He always asks the same questions over and over, even if a kid has already answered. Many of the kids he's tried to talk to at gymnastics have given him funny looks and then gone off to play with someone else. James always looks sad when he is there, and I'm always on edge.
As a distraction, I always let James play video games during the hour. I get more than a few disapproving looks from moms who have brought homework or books for their kids, and I constantly want to stare right back and yell "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS GOING THROUGH TO JUST SIT HERE, OR WHAT HE ALREADY HAD TO DO TO GET THROUGH THE DAY. JUST LEAVE US ALONE AND WATCH YOUR OWN KID!"
But, of course, I don't. I just sit there and put my chin on his shoulder and watch the screen with him, feeling guilty, angry, and alone.
So today, when James was sitting on my lap creating amazing obstacle courses in Jelly Car 2, a boy came and sat down about 5 feet away playing Angry Birds on an iPhone. James inched his way off me and was soon sitting about halfway in between us, and started telling the boy everything he knew about Angry Birds and how good he was at it. Then he started asking the boy questions, and I felt that familiar pit in my stomach. But instead of moving away, the boy answered them. And asked James about how get past the level. Soon they were sitting side by side, both playing Angry Birds and chatting away about the game like they'd known each other for years. Then, all of a sudden, the boy just got up and left and my heart sank.
Next thing I knew, the boy came back and there were 4 boys with him, 2 of whom James previously tried to "friend". The boy said "My mom got me the real one - the one you have! Want to see?" and to my utter amazement, they all huddled around, watching the game and taking turns playing. I just sat there watching them when James looked up. He gave me a huge smile, and we both knew he really was a superhero.