I saw you. I saw you as you excitedly ran onto the playground eager to play with anyone of the children there. I saw you and noticed that you could not maintain eye contact or look at anyone directly. I saw you as your father walked onto the playground after you and felt the need to immediately apologize for you, as if your very presence on the planet was something that needed to be apologized for.
“He just wanted to play. I had to bring him to the park.” he said to me. I looked over at you and saw all the tell tale signs. Ah, dear boy... What a good looking little fellow you were. What a nice coat you were wearing. I particularly noticed that because your dad was wearing a weathered coat to match his weathered face.
He looked over at you concerned and informed me, “He got kicked out of school. But I can't take everything away from him.” I guess because he realized I was a teacher he felt he could confide in me about you. I agreed with him, no you can't take everything away especially playing on the playground which I was sure was something you dearly needed. Your dad followed me a bit, as I was checking on all my young friends, still apologizing. I kept watching my children, glancing over at you as you played near several of my own. Your dad told me how he took you somewhere and they were gonna help you, teach you how to behave. I glanced over at you again. You seemed like so many other children I know.
He pulled out your file, and handed it to me seemingly desperate for some kind of affirmation. “These people, they're gonna help him." I sighed inwardly thinking, “But who will help you to parent your special boy.”
“See, he don't behave at school.”, pointing out the slip of paper in the pocket of the folder. I looked at your suspension notice and noted your name. Kayden... I looked at the suspension notice. At first, being an imperfect adult, I was surprised by the behavior, but then I thought to myself, "This? This is why he was suspended?!” I thought of all the reasons why you may have acted out this way. How many other ways the situation could have been handled and then I was shocked to discover that you were only 6 and that you were in kindergarten. You were so tall, like your dad. Oh, for sure this should have been handled differently. I handed your dad back the folder.
“My sister said i shouldn't have brought him to the park, but I can't take everything away y’know. “ your father said once again.
“No, no you can't.”, agreeing, yet once again.
“Thank you ma'am.” was all your tired, worried, father could say. Your dad needed to be validated. I saw him too.
I watched you as you played with my children. They welcomed you and you did the best you could. Yes, I needed to redirect you a couple times, and even though you did not seem very verbal you listened well. When you and the other boys found that treasure of a piece of cardboard, what fun you all had!! Finally it was time to go and as my young friends quickly lined up, you came to me holding that piece of cardboard with a twisted face.
“Are you crying?”, I asked. You nodded yes. Dad piped in, “He's sad cuz the kids is leaving.” I smiled at you and as I turned to take up the caboose of our line, you sat on the bench as your father informed you it was time to go. You were so very sad you did not realize you had dropped your treasure. Your dad grabbed your arm to leave. “ C'mon we gotta go!” and you fought him, struggling in his grasp and pulling your arm.
"Oh dear G-d!" I thought. I knew what you wanted! I saw it there like the trash that any unseeing person would think it was. But I was afraid to intervene. You were not my student. I had no relationship with your family. Was I overstepping a boundary? But I knew and I saw you. I SAW YOU!
Gathering my courage I went up to you, kneeling so I could try to see your eyes, “ What's your name?”, already knowing the answer. You couldn't look at me. You didn't answer. “Tell her your name!’ your dad instructed. Almost instantly dad answered, “It's Kayden.”
“Your name is Kayden?" I asked, and you nodded in affirmation. “Kayden, your dad didn't realize you wanted the cardboard. Just tell daddy, ' Hey daddy, may I have the cardboard?' "
I don't know what I was expecting. I hadn't heard you speak the entire time you were there and yet you turned to your father and you said these words a bit mumbly, “Daddy can I have the cardboard?” I saw as your dad visibly relaxed and said “Yeah, go get it.”
I was so happy for you! I wondered if you liked the cardboard so much because it was a symbol of all your adventures you had that afternoon. That afternoon you were just a fun loving, active little boy.
I want you to know Kayden that I love you. I love you wherever you fall on that big, beautiful, broad spectrum. I wish that you would always be met with love. But I know that is not what's going to actually happen because you, and so many other children like you, are not seen. Your behaviors are seen. Your diagnosis is seen. But your light, that beautiful, highly sensitive light, is not seen.
I cried on the way home tonight because I am worried about you. Who will support your dad in raising you? Who will support you while you grow into a man? You stole my heart little one.
I'm so sorry your teachers didn't see you, Kayden. I hope and pray that someday they do. I hope and pray we all do and realize that you and your spectrum self is becoming a new normal...and it's beautiful and there is nothing to be afraid of.
With deep love and respect,