I took the bus with my nine-year-old son, who is mildly autistic, and we sat in the back.
I thought, hey, we’re back-of-the-bus kids, the cool lot.
He smiled, bounced a couple of times in his seat, and said, “Hey, Dad, we should always sit in the back.”
I said, “Yep,” remembering my days from high school and the quest to gain that “cool” status by sitting in the back, and then later on becoming cool enough (or so I thought) that I didn’t need to fuss about sitting in the back anymore.
My son continued: “Because we are a family of five, and there are five seats on the back row, so we fit.”
I said, “Yeah, that’s right.”
He smiled and bounced again.
I’d like to think that at that moment as a father I decided to bounce along with him, to share his moment of joy at the the logic of the seating in the bus and the size of our family. But I didn’t. I started to fret about him and about how he will be able to make friends, how he will be able to fit in and become, in a way, cool. Or at least cool in his own way. It doesn’t really matter, being cool or not. I can say that now as an adult. But it does matter when you’re getting closer to becoming a teenager, to help fit in, to help make friends, and to not look too out of place or too different.
So I didn’t bounce.
But I did smile at his happiness at finding out why sitting at the back of the bus is mathematically cool. And at the same time I fretted about what other kids will think, and I thought about telling him to stop bouncing or to bounce a little less. But I didn’t do that either.
I said, “Hey, we get off at the next stop.”
He stopped bouncing and said, “Can I push the buzzer.”
“Sure…” I said. “But only once.”