The Boy at the Carousel

This summer, next to the cottage we rented was a carousel. It’s open every night from 7-9 and is THE thing to do with younger children while in that area. On our first night there, we bought a roll of tokens and set the two rides per night rule. The magic of the carousel is that if you got an outside horse, you got to grab for the rings in the hopes of getting the brass ring resulting in free ride. My boys and my nephew were too short to ride on their own and grab for the rings, but one of us rode with them each night, reliving the nights that we spent at that same carousel as children trying to grab 4 rings in a row.

One of the last nights we were there, there was a brother and sister duo waiting in line ahead of us. They were older, probably older than 10, but were magically excited to ride the carousel. They were also worried about the rules. They started lobbing questions at me.  What if I can’t get the rings? How many times do I stay on in a row? How long does the ride last? What do I do with the rings once I grab them? How will I know if  I get the brass one? What happens if you get the brass one? And on and on. Their father was with them, but he was staying quiet as they asked me their questions. They wanted to review the process over and over (it was a weekend so we were in line for a while). The boy told me they were just there for the day, they were not from around there. I began to notice that there might be something more to his anxiety. I began to notice many of the same characteristics that Max typically exhibits. I knew that to this boy, getting this carousel ride just right was going to make or break his trip to the beach that day.

Even after getting on the carousel, I walked them through the process once again as I was getting my own boys settled on their horses. I took as much joy in watching that boy and his sister grab the rings as I did watching my own children. They were both so determined. And you know what? That boy? He got the brass ring! I cheered and clapped. I was genuinely thrilled for him.

While this story might seem cliché, and anyone who reads this column knows I’m not a “they all lived happily ever after” kind of person, remembering this story this morning after putting Max on the bus made me teary-eyed. You see, I’ve been experiencing a lot of angst about Max now that he’s in school. Max’s needs are not obvious. His “issues” (can you help me figure out a better word to use?) are not visible. He doesn’t use crutches nor is he blind. He is not on the Autism Spectrum nor does he have a diagnosed sensory disorder. But he does flap his hands all the time. When he gets excited, he screams. I’ve already been asked by his bus driver to speak to him about this. He loves riding the bus and when it accelerates after each stop, Max whoops like he’s on a roller coaster. I’m not quite sure how to explain this to the driver though. I can talk to Max every day and every night about not screaming on the bus but he just.can’t.help it. His teachers have read his IEP and spend all day with him, so they know how Max is, but how do I go into Max’s lengthy history with the bus driver while standing on the side of the road?

My point is, not all needs are obvious. That perfect mom you see at Preschool drop off might be depressed. That child having a melt down at the supermarket might be freaking out because they are out of the right kind of cereal and his mother has absolutely no clue how to help him. My blogging hero Ellen Seidman put together a slide show for a recent blogging conference that sums up my point perfectly.

5 thoughts on “The Boy at the Carousel

  1. I know the exact carousel you are talking about! Allie loves it when we camp near there. Boo loves the carousel, too. Although for this one she is not stable enough to stay on by herself, so she has to watch from the sidelines as her big sister tries to catch that golden ring. I used to feel bad for Boo until I realized she had just as much fun watching as she does when there is a carousel she can ride (there is an awesome one in Old Orchard).

    PS-found you via Love the Max link-up

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments here. Noah’s needs are not obvious, either, and it’s hard for people to understand, sometimes, why we treat him differently than the other kids. Outwardly, he appears like a typical 1st grader, but inside, he’s much different. After going through so much with Noah, I’m so much more aware of the little signs from other kids, signs that most people probably wouldn’t pick up on.

  3. You just made me cry! My son has special needs that aren’t obvious: he isn’t in a wheelchair, he doesn’t have downs syndrome, he isn’t autistic so in a school setting he often isn’t understood. I’ve gotten so many angry phone calls from teachers…my son has been screamed at in school…I broke down in heaving sobs during parent pickup and screamed at a teacher that screamed at him…and none of it is his fault! He’s a good boy…he tries to be such a good boy…and he is SO smart. We are the middle parents. Not the parents of typical kids but not the parents of obviously special needs kids. Maybe it is sort of like being a middle child. haha

    1. Danette, your son sounds a lot like mine. I didn’t write about it here, but after the bus driver spoke to me last week I was so flustered that when Max kept screaming in excitement at home later that day, I put him in timeout. The whole time I was thinking to myself that he can’t help it and time out won’t matter. I think that middle parent philosophy is spot on. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Excellent post and point. Me, I prefer the word “challenges” over “issues” though I tend to use both. Thanks for sharing the slideshow that shows our kids’ awesomeness.

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