Thursday, June 22, 2017
An interesting time at McDonald's
Auntie A had the day off today. So we met her at the McDonald's with a Play Place. We rarely ever go, so the kids get pretty excited when we do. It started out like any other time. The kids dash into the play area and play while I place our food order.
The kids came down to eat... or half eat. Clark started to wander. I reminded him that these adults were having adult time while the kids played. One lady responded to him saying "Hi" and the conversation started. I went to remind Clark that we were here to play, but she shook her head and mouthed "It's ok". Soon she had 3 of the 6 kids talking to her. They discussed older Game Boys and Pokemon. After a bit I told Clark to say goodbye and go back to playing, she insisted it was ok and that she was a teacher. I gave Clark and his siblings another minute and reminded them that it was time to play since we would leave soon. Sadly Clark's new teacher friend had to go. Clark decided to pretend to be some sort of Pokemon and go play with all the other kids.
I am not sure what triggered it, but Clark suddenly stopped. From across the room he started to tell me how he was glad that segregation was over and he as happy that he could play with his new friends. Oh no. Ok, I can handle this. I asked him to come closer and on his way he proceeded to retell me what he had just said. I admit, I was a little embarrassed and horrified. I could see thisgoing one of two ways. One way would be that everyone understood he was trying to make a connection. The other involves being called a racist and some profanity (yes, we have had that one before).
I met Clark half way and told him that I would love to have this conversation with him, but maybe we should do so at our table. He happily agreed. Now, some will say that I need to teach him that there is a time and a place to speak of things like this. I agree and disagree. The middle of a Play Place is not the best spot to discuss a topic that could lead to a heated debate if others joined in that did not quite understand what he was trying to say. At the same time,hushing Clark would only teach him that we do not speak of these things. He may feel shamed. Children do not see the world as we do and do not take things the same way as adults do. Who knows what this could turn into in his mind. Clark has Autism. Clark was trying to make a meaningful connection with the people around him. He wanted to share something he had learned and he wanted them to know that just because he is Caucasian, he is not like those people in the past. To Clark, this makes perfect sense. We may find the drive to do that a little odd, but to Clark it isn't. He wasn't really doing anything wrong. He was just going about things in a way that most other people wouldn't.
We had our discussion and I thought he would go back to playing. Nope. Clark was still fixated on having a discussion with every adult there on segregation. *sighs* I did not manage to stop Clark in time. The gentleman was kind and understanding. Come to find out, he worked at a school and understood. Next Clark decided he would go talk to the African American couple who were seated in the back of the Play Place. The gentleman was on the phone and judging the body language of his wife, I am not quite sure this would play out very well. I told Clark that the gentleman was on the phone and it was rude to interrupt. Clark turned around and started to make a circle around the play area. He was not going to give up. He wanted to make that meaningful connection. Oh Clark... I did not think the wife looked very comfortable. Once again I reminded Clark that adults liked to have adult time, that the man was on the phone, and he wouldn't want to be rude, would he? Clark turned and I could see he was thinking of turning back again. "Clark, we are here to play." That worked.
Could I have handled it better? Maybe. Hindsight is funny like that. At the time, you do the best you can. Later you can always see things you missed and ways you could have handled it better. It's so easy to judge others on what they could have done better. Yet if we are in the same position, how many people could have actually have done better? Or would they simply have hushed the child?