Jake and Tate are anything but typical. Some days that is hard to accept. Other days, it is a treasure that Hubz and I share. It can be rewarding and challenging and heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. As we move forward in our adventure of life, and as we gain more traction in this “different” path, I find that I don’t fight the “different” as much as I used to. I’m not saying that I always like it…or that I have stopped wishing (at times) that things were different for my boys…but I have found a peace with the “different.” A perfect example of my peace was an experience shopping this past weekend.
I broke free from the family on Sunday evening in order to take advantage of a pretty good sale at a local toy shop. The shop was having a 25% off the entire store sale…and there were a few items there that I wanted to snag for the boys for Christmas presents. Hubz gladly sent me on my way.
I walked up to the store and steeled myself. It’s small. Toys line the walls, the floor, and every nook and cranny in-between. It is often too warm in there. And dry. With the exceptional sale, it was also quite crowded. (Even with it being the third day of the promotion during the last two business hours, several parents were rushing in to purchase goodies for their little ones.) Oh, what I do for my boys, I thought as I walked into the store. I inhaled deeply..and was assaulted by a scent of piney-peppermint. God only knows what that was coming from in the store.
I scuttled over to the wall of science toys. I was searching for a marble roller coaster. The 10-year-old in me was giddy with excitement. Look at that circuit board! And that marble roller coaster! And the experiment kits!! Make your own gooey candy! Make your own bouncy ball! Create your own weather! (I’m not sure how that one works, truth be told, but whatever.) I paused in front of the Tin-can robot. I ached to buy it for Jake. However, I knew it would be a waste–too much planning and focus required with that one. Instead, I threw it in my basket for our 10-year-old nephew. Cuz would like it. I picked up some Laser Pegs. The set I chose was a “Mega Bug” set–and could be configured nine different ways. The age on the box says “5+”. They had some set out for “kids” to try. I played with them. They were fun. Tate would like the fact that they light up when connected. Who cares if he never makes the mega bug…or dune buggy…or motorcycle…he’ll have fun watching the pegs light up as he plugs them into one another..they are so colorful.
I finally found the marble roller coaster set, which was my entire reason for making the trip. It said ages 6+ on the box. I looked at it…and my heart sunk. There just was no way that Tate could build that without having a meltdown. It was way too complicated for him. Too complicated for even Jake to build. Hubz and I would have to do the building, and the boys would roll the marble. Tate would rip the legs off to stim. I know him. It would happen at some point. Hubz and I would have to put it back together. Damn. Sigh. But wait…there was a set for 4+ that just might work. I called Hubz. I explained that they had a marble set for 4+…and it was very colorful..and looked like something that could be done without too much help. It was less intricate…less bendy and loopy. Less motor planning and organization would be needed to accomplish this one. I heard the disappointment in Hubz’s voice. It paralleled my own. But…if this was something that the boys could do..on their own…without our help…it would give them a feeling of success. Of accomplishment. So, without any more hesitation, I put away the box for age 6+ and picked up the box for 4+.
I meandered past some puzzles. They were 100 or more pieces. I snickered. Tate is just mastering 24 piece puzzles. Jake can handle bigger ones, but 100+ pieces would be too much for him. Both boys like the finished product, but the mess of several pieces laying scattered on the floor or table demanding to be placed in a proper position would just be too much. Right now, anyway. So I kept walking.
I found myself face-to-face with the “Wall of Legos”. The store had many sets…some of which can be found at Target or Walmart…and others which cannot. Jake had a SpongeBob SquarePants Super Hero set on his list. It’s a small set…something quite easy to assemble. He had been begging for it all weekend. It was perfect. I put it in my basket. I found another set for Tate. One that has a race car, a police car, but most importantly, a stop light. A particular stop light with a gray stick base, and 3 black blocks with the red, yellow and green opaque “button” legos for the lights. Tate loved the prior stoplight we had to death. I had to super glue that thing back together when he bit part of the block apart. Sensory seeking boy of mine…oh yes. I threw that one into my basket as well.
I rounded out the shopping trip with a plush, red, space-themed angry bird. That was also on Jake’s list. It will fit nicely with his budding collection. A bonus of those birds is that all three boys play with them–together. I will buy anything that encourages my children to play together. I got into line. The very long line. I texted Hubz to let him know I was in line, but that it would be a while. He assured me that there were no worries. So I stood patiently. The store’s owner came around with water bottles. I gladly partook of one, as I felt my throat closing from the dry, recycled air in there.
As I waited in line, the woman in front of me made some small talk. (Apparently we were the only two people shopping that night who did not bring a friend or spouse.) She asked if she could see what I had in my basket. Ever the people pleaser, I allowed her to check out the goodies. She asked about the Laser Pegs. I told her that I thought they’d be fun…and that my son would love them because they lit up…and that I didn’t expect him to necessarily follow the directions..and that’s ok. She looked a little puzzled..and then blurted out, “you know, that’s the right kind of spirit. If it makes them happy, who cares, right?” I fervently shook my head “yes”. (She actually bought one for each of her children when she got to the front of the line…guess I persuaded her.)
My line-buddy then took a look at the marble coaster. She inquired about the recipient. I told her it was for my 6 year old. She raised her eyebrow..but didn’t say a word. She made some small talk about kids and their various interests..and then proceeded to say that at least it wasn’t a DS game. (Hated to break it to her, but he’s getting one of those, too…) In the past I would have probably been embarrassed…or a little ashamed…or felt I had to explain the why behind the slightly below age-level toy/game/etc. But that day in the store?? I just smiled and said that I knew my son would absolutely love spinning the marble through the tubes and down the slides…and that his happiness would be contagious.
In that moment, I realized I had embraced the “different” in my kids. They are who they are…”different” and all. They love me, including my quirks and oddities (of which I have, ohhhh, a few), and I love them, too. Hubz and I may not be building “master” level Lego sets with our boys…yet. And that’s ok. We may avoid complex games with several steps and pieces…and that’s ok, too. We may buy things that are designed for children younger than our sons, but we know that the toys and games that we are buying will bring our kids happiness and joy…and embracing that?! That is what parenting is all about.