The Adventures Of Fatherhood – November 24, 2023

Around our house, having a birthday the week after Halloween is similar to a post-Christmas birthday.

It’s a good thing Carson abhors a fuss because his birthday falls on Nov. 5. Due to Halloween decorations involving weeks of preparations, Carson’s birthday is a bit of an afterthought.

Though he doesn’t want a big deal made of his birthday, it was interesting to observe in the weeks leading up to his 14th birthday the subtle hints left as to what he wanted as a gift.

Like most kids on the Autism spectrum, Carson thrives with a routine. It’s a key piece in a safe and successful life with him. Therefore, every morning unfolds the same way, especially school days. We go through our stages of the morning essentially mirroring the entire process.

A part of the ride to school is him looking at my phone and showing me funny things, typically insanely expensive houses, jewelry and cars. He likes to hypothesize how to spend my money. Before getting out of the car and making the way to school, he always leaves my phone on the console open to something — always expensive and typically funny.

For weeks prior to his birthday, he was leaving my phone screen on computers he liked. One day it was the 24k Gold Macbook Pro with diamond encrusted Apple logo that retailed for $24,000. Though his taste was a little outlandish, he was letting us know he wanted a computer.

Once a desktop was decided as his preferred computer option, Carson began researching and found a site for all-in-one computers where the computer is essentially the monitor. One morning, and I think it was about a week before his birthday, he stopped before getting out of the car and showed me a computer on my phone. He then grabbed my wrist and pointed to the date making sure I didn’t forget what was coming up.

American Education Week was at Carson’s school, Stephen Decatur Middle, last week.

We asked our middle schooler if he wanted us to come. I was surprised when he said he did and chose math class as the time for us to come.

I wrongly assumed Carson would not want us to attend because he prefers to be low profile. I have noticed middle school parents are generally light on American Education Week attendance. It’s not because the parents don’t care. In most cases, I think the middle school students – who are a tough lot – mandate their parents stay away. If Carson was in that predicament, Pam and I would have been fine with it.

However, when the kid who never asks for anything says he wants us to come to his math class on a Tuesday at 11 a.m. we do it. We have learned to roll with situations with our Carson, but we were curious if he would want us to sit with him and his one-on-one buddy Mr. Chris or just observe from a distance.

Of course, as is par for the course with our Autistic son, his reaction was different than we would have imagined. When we got to school and were waiting outside his classroom, he wanted nothing to do with us. I mean absolutely nothing. In fact, he hid behind a locker from us. The thought crossed my mind of rolling out the side door in short order if our presence was causing him anxiety and result in behavior. I walked over to him to hand him a new Apple pencil he needed to replace his broken one. He made it known through repeated hand gestures he wanted us to go inside his classroom. Within seconds, Carson darted to his seat in the front row and went to work.

We followed his lead and went to the back of the room, observed and refreshed our minds about linear relationships. From what we could observe, he was a model student under the guidance of his buddy Mr. Chris. We recognized the small sounds Carson was making through the class as indicators he was having fun and enjoying himself. He would often point to his one-on-one, smiling. In my head, I imagine he was poking fun at Mr. Chris over his lack of knowledge of eighth grade math concepts. He was there for support but not much in the way of math instruction, and Carson seemed to enjoy it. That’s how I interpreted the situation at least.

When the class was wrapping up, Carson and Mr. Chris grabbed his belongings and left a few minutes early. The early departure and arrival have been a common practice with Carson in school to avoid the crowds in the hallways and keep his social anxiety in check. As Carson left the room, we thought he might look over and wave. He did not do either. He was gone. It was as if we were not there, but we know full well Carson knew we were there. I refuse to believe it doesn’t matter to him. I think it mattered a lot to him actually, but he wanted to stay on his routine and keep to his day’s script.

In the days that followed our visit, I make dumb jokes about what I learned in school that day. I had him giggling good this week walking into school when I reminded him not to get the ‘x’ and ‘y’ intercepts mixed up and remember to rise over run when figuring out the slope. He knows full well I have no idea what I am talking about, but it was a good takeaway from American Education Week.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.