A little boy was lost for an hour or two on Saturday in our town. Just a few years older than Moose with red hair and autism. My heart immediately went out to his mother; I know how panicked and afraid I'd be if Moose were a wanderer. My son hasn't shown to be (yet) but as he grows, who knows, so I try my best to be vigilant. He doesn't play outside by himself ever.
Today (the 4th) I took a walk up to the train tracks about 1/4 north of our house with my boys. They love the trains and I was bored sitting around watching them play cars. So we took hands with 2 rules: 1) hold mommy's hand, 2) listen to mommy. They did really good listening - they even got to pet someone's pet rat (yuck).
On our way back home, there was a little boy with red hair and no shirt came up to talk with us. He'd been talking to these two high school aged girls but trailed us. He just started talking; I could tell this was the same boy who had been lost just two days ago. I let him walk with us down the street to our house and handed my own boys over to Big A.
We walked back down to where he found us. I asked the girls he'd been talking to if they knew where he lived; they didn't but said that he'd come down a close alley. The boy told me his mom would be mad at him. I tried to reassure him that she was probably just worried about him. The part that broke my heart was this: "will you take care of me while my mom sleeps?" This was all around 10:30am!
He couldn't show me where he lived (he passed the street where they lived), so I took him home with me and called the police. The dispatcher tried calling his mom (disconnected number) and grandmother (no answer). The dispatcher said I could take him home myself and gave me his address, but she also said she hadn't had a call saying that he was lost yet either. I decided against taking him home; I'd rather not let my emotions get the better of me and let a professional handle it.
The police officer showed up just before the boys' family. His dad didn't say much when he walked in but as soon as his mom came in she asked the boy, "are you in trouble?" Not, 'are you ok?' or 'I was so worried!' Just as he feared. She said, 'you're not supposed to go out of the yard, are you?' She then asked the police man if they had the GPS tracking at our local office. She said that if she just slept in for 5 minutes he would take off. It took everything I had of self-control not to say 'well then don't sleep in!' (trust me, I know that's hard - I've had 4 years of getting up with my early bird!) The poor boy looked just worried and downtrodden when his mom came in, saying that we took care of him. You could just tell he was looking for a way out of trouble.
After they'd left, the officer said this wasn't the first time they'd been involved with the family. He said that it seems she just doesn't understand that her son is not 'normal' (please don't give me comment backlash about this word, ok? I know that my autistic son is not 'normal,' not the same as every other child. it's ok). I agree. If you give this boy boundaries and he is unable to follow them, then please don't be mad at him when he doesn't follow them! Autistic kids don't have the same boundaries as other kids; rules are abstract and don't mean much. And if this happened TWO days ago, then I would think I would be more vigilant in watching my son.
I'm so thankful I found this little boy and was able to open my home to him and share a meal with him (and some Superman) and give him a shirt. Honestly, I am thankful because he could have been hit in traffic (he wasn't watching out for traffic which was a main reason I decided to bring him home) or someone not so nice could have found him. I'm just sad.
I thought that if your child has special needs, you would better understand that they don't always do things to be naughty. I know that I'm not a perfect mom (I know! I had it out with Moose just this morning about his cars), but I hope that if my son (or sons!) wander off that they are met with grace and love first, discipline next. I want them to know that I'm worried about them, not mad. I'm sure this mom was worried but it didn't come out at all!
I am thankful for this experience to tweak my own parenting. To know that my boys need more love and grace, not more discipline and time outs. If that was my lesson in this, 10-4 God. This really was a slap in the face for the need of my humility and love. I also hope that this brings about an opportunity for us to share with this family - we have something in common and usually that's all the foot ground you need for a relationship.
Please, whether you have special needs children or other children, please please give them a hug and some grace today. I know it's hard to be a parent - I'm in the trenches too. But more than discipline (and I'm not saying that they don't need that too because they do!) they need love.