When I was in the planning stages of our trip, and after I had initially contacted my two “online” friends, I finally took the time to work out the timing of our drive to Boyne City from Holland, and I started to feel a little anxious about it, because I knew William would be operating in delirium mode. For, you see, William no longer sleeps in the car. But I really wanted to somehow meet up with my second online friend, Sarah, and her son, Kellen. We would be this.close to each other. It seemed a shame to drive right on by… and, the irony of following that busy road painting truck once we were on the road, well, I was glad we had worked it out that we would be taking a break!
Fortunately, Sarah apparently felt we were worth meeting, and she spent several hours researching parks along our route, asking her co-workers for input and ultimately finding an amazing park that none of our cumulative Google searches had revealed. Chalker Park had all sorts of bridges, swings, rooms, stairways, alcoves, lookouts, cut outs on paintings for cute pictures, rope ladders — ideal for kids (and adults!!) who had been cooped up in a car for way too long. There was even a huge painted dragon on one of the tall walls of the structure. Then, on top of all that, she hurried through her after work routine and drove out of her way to meet us there.
When Sarah texted me that she had arrived at the park, I was busy watching the line of cars behind the road painting truck! When we finally arrived, I wasn’t confident that we had actually found the right place. I was expecting a slide and a patch of grass like we have here in California. This park was so huge that I couldn’t see anyone anywhere in the structure. There were a couple kids on the swings nearest the parking lot, and their moms were ambling around nearby, but none of them looked like Sarah or her son. I sent a desperate text to Sarah, “Where are you???” and we started to leave the parking lot thinking there must be a smaller park down the road a bit, but William freaked out thinking we were leaving (instead of investigating), and after having been cooped up in the car for a couple of hours, he wanted OUT. So we pulled back into the parking lot and unloaded ourselves. Once in the structure, Sarah magically appeared from the yonder side and William was intent on running and climbing all over the place and seeing every bit of it that he could see. He did not want to “sit” in a swing or sit anywhere. He started an imaginary “Alice In Wonderland” scenario and wanted everyone to follow him while he chased an imaginary white rabbit to an imaginary tea party. I’m not certain what it was about this park that triggered that, maybe the maze-like hugeness of it? But it was quickly apparent to me that he wasn’t open to any other kind of game.
Kellen, Sarah’s son, was intent on swinging on the swings and exploring the park in a more calm and solitary manner, and suggestions to either of the boys to play together, or even in the same area of the playground, were not being met with any sort of interest. To apply a cliche to it, it was a bit like herding cats in a roomful of rocking chairs. So, for awhile, Sarah and I were kind of like two pendulums, going opposite ways as we followed our boys, and then passing each other as we briefly chatted and then going the other way.
It was interesting to see these two boys together. They are very different personalities, and I would hazard a guess to say they are actually opposite personality types. William is an extrovert, as well as an external processor (meaning that he processes what he’s thinking or feeling verbally) and, while he’s learning what’s OK to say or not say, he doesn’t always say things with intuition, tact or gentleness. Kellen tends toward being an introvert (says one introvert about another), but he also has Childhood Apraxia of Speech. As a result, he leans toward doing his processing internally, articulating his needs only. After a bit of time at the playground, it seemed that Kellen started to feel overwhelmed, so he retreated to be alone, and began requesting an item that made him feel safe. Yet, after a bit, I noticed that he began to share his “safe” item with William, but wanted to maintain ownership — which, of course, makes total sense. I’m fairly sure that the sharing wasn’t being done on Kellen’s terms and, as a result, both William and Kellen were expressing frustration with each other and Sarah and I were doing our best to help them navigate through it.
It had been about 30-45 minutes of running around at the playground, and so it was timely that Sarah happened to glance over her shoulder (or maybe she was looking for an escape route???) and spotted a place that advertised pizza. Ahhh, pizza, the great unifier! Alas, we had solidarity! Because who doesn’t love pizza? Plus, CONTAINMENT! We were all apparently a bit more “hangry” than we initially thought. We demolished a large pepperoni pizza (pizza!!), breadsticks and salad, and we managed to fit in some adult chat time while the boys finally settled into a bit of a groove with each other.
I was so impressed to finally meet Sarah and Kellen. It was a gift to watch mother & son together, and Kellen has a bond with his mommy that is beautiful to behold. Not surprising, because Sarah has one of the most beautiful hearts that I’ve ever seen in a person, and any person who has the opportunity to learn from her is blessed, indeed. I suppose I’m most astounded by the fact that, not only does Sarah face navigating the sea of being a voice and advocate for her son who is working hard to find his own voice through this disorder that frustrates the heck out of him, but she chooses to do so with understanding, kindness and by giving grace and forgiveness to those they encounter as they move along on their journey. I intuitively knew ahead of time that our visit might present some challenges with our boys, but I left feeling humbled and grateful for her patience, kindness & willingness to allow herself (and Kellen) to be vulnerable to us by allowing us some learning moments.
When it was time for us to get on the road again, we took some pictures and gave each other several hugs before we left each other. Once again, I felt as if I were leaving behind another friend as we traveled on.
I know Sarah is working to bring awareness to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and so I’m linking her blog here, as well as a recent interview she did with Courtney Curtis of her local news station. For more information about childhood Apraxia, see Apraxia Kids.
— To Be Continued —