Impulsivity in the Park

kids playing outsideFor those who don’t know, I homeschool my son. Part of the experience involves participating in afternoon park days with a couple of homeschool groups every week. Most often my boy seems to have fun as he plays with other kids. This past week, however, was not the greatest experience due to an incident during a game of Red Rover.

Allow me to briefly explain what this game involves. The kids split into two groups. One group forms a line holding hands. They call members of the other group over by saying “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (input child’s name) right over.” The kid who’s called has to run as forcefully as he or she can toward the line of children holding hands. The object is to break the connection between two of these kids. After that, I forget what the rules are. I know, it sounds like an injury waiting to happen, especially for the fact that the age range of kids playing this particular day was 4 to 13. I know it seems obvious that maybe we should have suggested another game, but hindsight is 20/20, and it was a game I played as a kid without injury (at least none I can remember).

Anyway, while a couple of other parents and I were chatting away, I looked over and noticed a small child on the ground. It wasn’t clear if he was injured because he wasn’t crying. As it turns out, he had been hurt by my son who happened to now be facing away from the group several yards away. I called my son to return to the group to have him discuss the situation, but he was, as usual, close-mouth. I knew that this was not a time to be accusatory (not that it ever is), especially since my boy had tears welling up in his eyes. I simply and gently told him that it was just important to apologize when we make a mistake and hurt someone.

Meanwhile, two of my son’s friends gave the details of the story. What happened was apparently a combination of errors. There were only three kids holding hands in a line. Two of the bigger kids in the line had been standing so closely that my kid’s only option was to run between the smaller child and the older kid in the middle. Because he has ADHD, my son doesn’t always think about consequences. He might otherwise have asked the children who were standing shoulder to shoulder to separate.

Normally, when my son unintentionally hurts someone, especially a small child, he demonstrates remorse and apologizes. According to my boy’s storyteller friends, in this situation, he didn’t get a chance. When he tried to run through the line and the small child toppled over, that child’s big brother immediately laid into my son, saying things like, “Thanks a lot for hurting my brother!”

After the incident and after I got the details of the story, my son left the group, teary-eyed, and headed to the bathroom. Fortunately, there was a  dad in the group who was able to follow him to chat and make sure my son was okay.

In my head, a light went on. I had always wondered why my kid wanders off by himself so often. Sometimes I see him sitting on the lawn in the middle of the park or climbing a distant tree. Often, I have gone to him and asked “what’s wrong,” to which I get, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.” Even though my son is so close-mouthed, I now strongly believe he goes off by himself after something bad has happened. To make matters worse, since my son has a reputation for doing things without thinking, other kids feel they have a license to be inappropriately severe with him.

My son’s impulsivity has diminished as he’s gotten older, though it can apparently still cause him problems. I just have to hope the impulsivity will occur less and less often, and I will keep reminding him to consider potential outcomes for any given situation. Maybe this will help. Though this is tough for many people, I think.

While my son was in the bathroom having a heart-to-heart with the homeschool dad, I was talking with the mom whose boys were involved in the Red Rover incident. I was able to explain to her that my son has a diagnosis of ADHD. I also had to kind of explain to her what that means, as much as I know, anyway. She actually thanked me. She said her older boy and mine had had some history of conflict. My explanation for my son’s impulsivity was really helpful, and she would have a talk with her children. I’d like to think that this will help and this will improve my son’s relationship with the other kids. I now feel like I should be talking to more parents about why my son often behaves the way he does, the fact that he has ADHD and what that means.

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