I knew as a mother, I was going to have to teach my kids things, like teach my daughter to put on makeup, or my son to ride a bike. But this? Seriously?
I am now expected to do something as a parent I never expected to do. I need to teach my 6-year-old how to be cool. (Huh, what? Can’t I teach him about sex instead? That might be simpler.)
To the outside world, Reuben is like every other 6-year-old. But we have a secret. What comes natural to other kids can take upwards of 100 hours to teach him. My son is on the Autism Spectrum. So far every issue we have faced, I have taken in stride, until now….
My son is going into the 1st grade. These are the kids he will be in school with for years to come. It is so important that he settle in well, and hopefully make friends to last his school years. The key to all of this is to teach him to “be cool,” and not awkward. Awkward is deadly for a 1st grader. It only takes a moment for other kids to realize he is different, and I am here to make sure that doesn’t happen.
So how do you teach a kid to be cool, when you have no idea what is cool to 6-year-olds?!?!
It has become my job to dig into the 6-year-old psyche to find what makes a 6-year-old boy tick.
So lets start with Reuben’s Kryptonite… cartoons.
Reuben likes Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Street, and Blue’s Clues. Hmm, that’s TOTALLY not too cool for a 6-year-old, even I know that. It’s not even cool for a 4-year-old. He likes these because they’re safe and comfortable, no nuances that could confuse him. But he needs to like “cool” shows so that he has something to talk about with the kids in his class. He is not going to make friends with boys by asking if they like My Little Pony.
You will think it’s a joke when I say that my son earns rewards for watching shows like Pokemon, Star Wars and Transformers. These are shows other 6-year-old boys watch so damn it, so will he. Over time it has gotten better. He still hates Transformers but has finally gotten into Pokemon, and will tolerate some Star Wars. If he can at least talk a good game, then I will be happy.
Our next major issue: Reuben tends to do awkward or inappropriate stuff to get people to notice him. Mainly he either growls or pretends to fall and hits himself like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon. This is not a good way to get other kids to play with him.
Here is the confusing part. As a mom, I would generally teach him to just ask to play with someone, right? Nope. It’s not “cool” to walk up to another 6-year-old and say, “Will you play with me?” That is ok for my 3-year-old daughter, but not a 6-year-old boy. Somehow I need to teach him to walk over and just jump in to others’ play, without even asking. At least he can say, “What are you guys playing?” Not easy when he doesn’t pick up social signals and when pretending to be a ninja or a Star wars character is a fate worse than death to him.
These are only a few of the myriad of Odysseus-like challenges I must now face. Instead of forcing him to practice his reading and writing like many of you, I am forcing my son to watch Power Rangers and making him play the latest game on Nintendo DS.
Tomorrow I am off to buy him Pokemon cards and make him go on the Simpson ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. I’m also trying to convince my husband to have a 1st grade kick off party so Reuben can meet them on his turf (never gonna happen).
So bring on the Pokemon, Star Wars, Ninjago, handball, soccer, ninjas, cops and robbers, Mario Kart and whatever the hell else I will be forced to do.
And by the way, what the hell is a Pokemon, anyway?