So, The Kid has a new friend. They met playing basketball out in the driveway a few weeks ago and suddenly, they are like Peas ‘n Carrots. They are both passionate about basketball, seeming to share exactly the same rhythm to their play, and giddy during this, the play off section of basketball season. They have watched all the play off games together, both of them wearing their Laker jerseys, drinking their Lakers brand Gatorade and universally agreeing with each other on calls…as well as providing each other with emotional support during the Lakers epic collapse this year (WTF guys?!). This is an article sponsored by Gather App
The interesting thing is this, one of them is 7 and the other one is 17…like 6-foot-4-inch-17-year-old. Um…(yes, my life continues in it’s erratic orbit around the planet Sanity). I first met this new friend a couple of weeks ago when I stepped out into the garage to get something from the storage racks. I looked up to find my 7 year old, basketball obsessed son, playing with what appeared to be a strange adult in the driveway instead of the usual collection of neighborhood kids. ??? The Kid, who was being rather excellently guarded by this towering stranger, threw me a “Hi Mom!” never pausing in his attempted drive to the net. The taller of the two was equally focused on stopping him, and spared me only the briefest of eye contact…which is odd in that situation. Something about him immediately made me think of The Kid. “Spectrum” my intuition said, but I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure to tell you the truth, but I’m kind of not sure in the same way as The Kid. It’s uncannily familiar to watch them together.
At the time, rather than interrupt the action and because I am an information gatherer by nature, I went in search of the Golf Pro to ask him if he had any ideas about the very large person playing basketball with our son in the drive. “Oh, yeah. That’s his new friend. We met last week.” Clearly, I’m not attending enough driveway games this season. Initially, I found the friendship jarring, and I was certainly wary of it. I mean what 17 year old hangs out with a 7 year old like that? And it is the 7 year old in particular that he is friends with.
Watching them together, the 17 year old has the ability to seamlessly line up with my child in his tunnel vision world of hyper-narrow focus. We are used to seeing this from The Kid, who seems to live his life in sync with the sports calendar. It is one of those clues to his living on “the spectrum” that is strongest. His tendency to become obsessed with things. At any given time, it might be a game that dominates his every waking moment, but most often it’s sports. During baseball season, nothing else matters and when he isn’t watching it or talking about it, he is re-enacting the play-by-play from an exciting moment of game time action. During these times all his conversation in school and his homework assignments will be generated from within that single focus…until a new sport comes to the fore.
Presently, the two of them have settled into a generally comforting routine. Everyday, shortly after the school day ends, his friend will arrive and the game will start heat up in the driveway. And his arrival everyday is greeted by The Kid with shouts of excited happiness, “He’s here!” They are often joined by his older brothers (which I admit I encouraged at first as a bit of a safe-guard). During this time The Kid can be seen ferrying drinks out to his friend (his brothers can get their own thank you very much) and the house will reverberate with sounds of them banging hoops out in the driveway, (which is an insanely comforting sound by the way).
Then, at the appropriate moment, The Kid will come in and commandeer the downstairs TV for them, setting it to the game time channel. They might get in a few more points before the tip off, but their attention will now be divided between the driveway and living room. From there on in the two of them, at times followed by the others, will move back and forth between the game on the TV and the game out in the driveway, perfectly immersed in the world of hardcore hoops.
But as consuming as it can all be, I don’t know where this friendship will end up once the play offs are over. Folks on “the spectrum” can have a slightly different approach to social interactions and misunderstandings are all too easy to have. At least once, his new friend rode past him on his skateboard without saying hello, when The Kid thought they were scheduled to play together. My boy was utterly distraught, and he looked like this for the rest of the day…
We tried to suggest some other possibilities for his friends action, but it was pretty near impossible to get The Kid to understand some of the more subtle nuances of social interactions, and we just had to baby-step our way through the rest of the day. His friend showed up the next day just like he always did, totally unaware of their being a problem, and all was forgotten, so things quickly went back to looking like this…
As it stands right now, with the play off season coming to an end, the two of them go along as they started…like peas ‘n’ carrots. But when basketball season ends we’ll wait to see if something else comes along to replace his passionate obsession. And we don’t yet know if this shared rhythm between the two of them will manage to span across more than the Lakers and basketball. So we watch and wait to see what happens between these two. It did manage to survive The Lakers and the heartbreak of their team getting swept in the second round…I hope it survives other heartbreaks too.