by Margaret Stephenson
I try not to cry as I sit close to my son while he shivers and cries on the floor – he won’t let me hold him. In the room across the hall, my daughters continue with the archery class that he has been asked to leave. My heart hurts watching him feel so deeply about something he is incapable of at this point.
Braden wanted to try archery and I thought it would be a good way to add some balance to his computer time. Everyone is required to do an introductory class before enrolling – the coach said the class would be easy, as long as the kids can listen and focus. So, I figured, Braden is super at listening and focusing. No problem.
“Pick your bow, grab your arrows, pin up your target, put on your safety glove, find a finger grip, stand behind the blue line on two whistles, shoot your arrows on one whistle, pick up your arrows on three whistles,” says the coach. “If you cross the red line before you have heard three whistles, I will yell and pull you back by your shirt because this is a dangerous sport.”
We all listen. I watch Braden out of the corner of my eye. I see the signs. Covering his eyes with his hair, looking down, shifting around, complaining about the fit of his glove, not being able to put on his finger grip. I repeat the directions to him, slowly and calmly. He listens to me, but the coach says, “No mom – you can’t help him. He has to do it by himself. He needs to pay attention, stop being silly.”
He’s never silly, I think to myself.
“How old is he – isn’t he eight? An eight year old can do this,” the coach says.
“Watch what I’m doing and copy me,” I whisper to him. I know how much he wants this.
He says, “I can’t do it. The glove hurts. Where do I go. I don’t know what to do.”
I’m getting worried, his voice is getting higher – do I just quit now or do I let him keep trying? Will I be giving up on him if I suggest we just sit and watch the girls? I know he will freak out if I say we need to quit now. Sometimes there’s very little time between happily focused and overwhelm.
His body melts onto the archery room floor and the teacher barks that he is no longer welcome in the class.
He has Asperger’s Syndrome and I’m learning more each day about how to help him. He’s smart and capable of so many things that I’m often caught off guard by the things he has trouble with. By getting away from the computer, I was hoping for more balance in his life, but I realize we’re not out of balance because he loves to play computer games – we’re out of balance because other things are so hard for him.
Margaret is a mom to three wonderful kids in Austin, TX. They have been unschooling for six years and find it still so interesting and exciting that she has decided to to put her passion for alternative education together with her love of writing in a blog that she hopes “people will learn from and enjoy.”