Sebastian’s also worried about his older brother, Stephen (17), for all the things Stephen's been going through. I’ve written sparingly about Stephen in the past (most notable, here and here). Sparingly, because, frankly, it’s painful. Stephen’s on the autistic spectrum. But he also has an intellectual disability and mental health issues. So much of my day is spent worrying about him. And trying to calm him down. And praying for him. And trying to find glimmers of accomplishment in what he does because, let’s face it, all parents yearn to be proud of their children.
Although Sebastian and Stephen are in different classes, they share the same gym period-- Stephen's in the Advanced PE and Sebastian's in the normal PE class. But during gym period, Sebastian sees Stephen walk around the gym by himself. Most of the kids in the Advanced PE class are athletes-- football players, etc. We've had Stephen do Advanced PE because of the greater emphasis on weight training. Even though Stephen's not a weight lifter, they've usually let him do the elliptical machines during Advanced PE. But now, lately at least, he's just been walking laps around the gym by himself. Which is disheartening, at least from Sebastian’s perspective, who sees Stephen all by himself when he (Sebastian) is usually hanging out with his friends.
The other day, during dinner, Stephen really bared his soul for the first time in a long time. A few weeks ago, Stephen hit his only true friend. They had gotten into an argument about something. The friend was here at our house and, for some reason, Stephen was bothering Sebastian about something. Stephen's friend told Stephen to quite bothering Sebastian. Seeing his friend take Sebastian's side in the argument triggered something in Stephen. Jealousy. He started yelling and, after a few moments, Stephen hit his friend in the back.
Since then, the boy hasn't wanted to be Stephen's friend anymore. Stephen's tried to apologize, but the friend doesn't want to hear anything about it.
So, over dinner the other night, it dawned on Stephen that he's really lost his best friend. He doesn't have other friends his age. My impression is that most kids at school don’t talk to him. At school, he’s fairly isolated from many of his peers. Some of that, unfortunately, is Stephen's own fault-- he's had behavioral issues. Plus, he's said some mean things to other people who've been his friends in the past. Or, in some cases, his over-active attempts to foster friendships have not gone over well-- he's been accused of pestering kids. He can't understand any of this. Stephen's intellectually disabled, saddled with ADHD, Autism, memory retention issues, and an IQ in the 50s. Plus his mental health issues.
During dinner, Stephen was mumbling about this to himself. And telling us about it. He kept saying he shouldn't have hit his friend. At seventeen, the realization that actions have consequences has finally hit him. Saying all this, he wasn't mad or angry... but you could tell he was distraught. I offered to take Stephen out for a walk—lately, now that the temperatures have turned colder, we’ve been doing a lot of mall walking—and Stephen jumped readily at the chance. During our walk, Stephen seemed happy. He didn’t want to talk anymore about what had happened with him and his friend, but we talked. Silly stuff. Kid stuff. So much of what amuses Stephen amounts to silly jokes, stuff that most kids his age would probably roll their eyes at. But Stephen eats it up. More than anything though, I got the feeling that Stephen just liked me being there with him, listening.
But anyways, this morning, Sebastian gave Stephen a hug. Told him that he wished Stephen had a good day today. And then Stephen bounded onto the bus, and Sebastian bounded into Alison’s car and told her about all he’d been going through lately.