Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trick or Treat with a Friend

Next to the really big worries we have (like will Kai ever be able to get a job and live independently), one of our persistent concerns is whether Kai will be able to have a good friend as he gets older.

He has known a few kids over the years that he liked and enjoyed playing with, but his first year of middle school was a rough time. He didn't bond with any of his classmates and often said that no one liked him. While we don't always take what he says as the literal truth, in this case I suspect that what he said was largely true. Between easily getting dysregulated, inappropriately expressing his frustrations, and not taking the perspective of others, it wouldn't be surprising if it wasn't easy for the other kids to warm up to Kai.

So it was welcome news this fall when he found out that a former classmate from elementary school three years ago was going to join Kai's class. E and Kai had a great relationship when Kai was in 4th grade. They hung out together at lunch and during breaks, and we even had E over to our house for a few successful playdates. And now in middle school, it seems like they were able to renew their friendship.

Last week, though, they hit a bump in the road. Kai found out that E will be transitioning to his home school. At Kai's therapeautic school, many kids come and go, staying long enough to work on their behavioral or social issues, then transitioning to their home school when ready. For six years now, Kai seems to be the only kid who hasn't been able to transition. When Kai found out that E was transitioning, I think he was crushed. But when Kai feels this way, he doesn't allow himself to feel sad. He reacts angrily.

He told E that he wasn't his friend anymore, and E responded in kind. Kai came home from school upset that E told him that he wouldn't be Kai's friend, but we got the full story from staff later.

The school staff helped to mend the relationship just in time for the boys to keep a planned playdate for Halloween. They would go trick-or-treating together in our neighborhood.

My wife picked them up at school. E did not have a Halloween costume so my wife let him wear the old Mustard costume that Kai wore about three years ago while she dressed as Ketchup. Kai was in his zombie costume.

My wife went with them at the very beginning, snapping the following photo at the famous house down our block that does Halloween up big time.

The residents here always put up elaborate decorations, many that move and make scary sounds, and they give out quarter gallon size ziplock bags full of candy including full-size bars. Plus they serve hot chocolate for the kids, wine for grownups, and doggie treats for the furry members of the family.

After the stop at this house, my wife returned home with the dog she was watching. The two boys went around on their own. 12 year olds don't usually go trick-or-treating with their parents, but this was the first time we've let Kai go without our presence and I was a bit nervous about how he would do.

But apparently all went well.

By the time I got home from work, the boys were exhausted from walking around for most of the past three hours. They had collected a huge bag of candy each. I'm sure the bags had gotten heavy by the time they were done. Kai had gotten some good exercise in, ha!

We had dinner together and then Kai and I drove E home. E was very nice. He spoke nicely with us, answering questions and telling us about how things went. He gave us more information than we usually get from Kai. He also politely thanked us.

And so Halloween was a nice success this year.

Childhood friendships oftentimes are not long lasting. And with E getting set to leave Kai's school in the coming months, this one likely won't last all that much longer. But these friendships can serve as a learning experience, and help teach a child the social interactions that will be necessary to maintain longer-term friendships when they get older.

For us, though, it serves another purpose. Maybe, just maybe, if the right person comes along, Kai can find a good friend.


  1. I think that Halloween has died out mainly due to the selfish and ill mannered behavior of so many of the children during such events. It is not the adults who are "cheapskates". They started out wanting to share and to make great memories for the youth such as they had. When children would try to grab handfuls of candy, when it had become a rare event when a child gave a sincere thank you, or even one at all, when female teenagers would use the holiday to wear as skimpy a costume as they could get away with to fulfill their exhibtionistic urges, when male teenagers would rove in gangs trying to intimidate children out of their candy...this is what had killed the holiday. I have seen the almost complete lack of caring for this once fun holiday everywhere I have been. In some tight knit communities it is still alive. It seems as though your community is still tight. It reminds me of my youth.

    It is good that Kai had a good experience on Halloween. What is better is that both of the boys had forgiven each other and were able to enjoy each other's company, perhaps, one last time. I think Kai realized how quickly and easily words said in anger can alter a situation. He also knows that to enjoy some magical moments in life with others is a flavor in life which is far more delicious than the false and momentary shallow satisfaction of venting anger...and that this is what forces growth.

    1. Shiroi, we too get too many kids who grab handfuls of candy and don't say thank you. For all the reasons you mention, Halloween is not a day I particularly look forward to. But because Kai enjoys it, we celebrate on his behalf.

      I think he is starting to understand the hurt of words said in anger. Hopefully he can learn to control himself so he doesn't say such things as often in the future.

  2. I think you have to believe that he will have a good friend, and just that it takes our children a little longer to learn how friendships really work. Teenage years are difficult for everyone! Glad they did so well for Halloween - love how big everyone in America goes for it!

    1. Steph, I have a co-worker who grew up in the UK and he loves Halloween here, probably because he never got to experience it like this when he was a kid there.

      Yes, it does take our kids longer to learn how friendships work... hopefully Kai is able to figure it out and find someone who appreciates him for who he is.


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