Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
But on an ideal playground that is designed with only one point of entry and exit, which is really the only kind we typically take her to, it's possible to relax a little and let her run around and play with some measure of independence. As long as I'm aware of who's around and place myself near the single entry point, I can generally let Schuyler do her thing with a minimal amount of creepy dad surveillance.
At the park on Sunday, I'd seen an older woman watching over her two grandsons, and I'd been aware of her twitchy machinations in the boys' playing. She was constantly jumping up and running onto the play area, breaking up whatever little grabby interactions her poor grandsons found themselves in. They seemed embarrassed by her interference, but they took it without much more than token resistance.
I should have seen it coming, I suppose.
I'd been sitting and reading for a while before I heard Grandma going off on someone again. When I looked up, of course it was Schuyler who was being berated. As I hopped up and hurried over, BBoW in hand, she stood silently as Grandma barked at her, her lower lip sticking out and her medic alert tag in her hand, extended but ignored.
"When a grownup tells you something, you need to show respect and answer!" I heard Grandma saying as I walked up to them. Schuyler let go of her tag and stomped her foot in frustration, which of course just made things worse. Grandma started to wind up again, even as her grandson protested that it wasn't a big deal. He was clearly humiliated by his grandmother, protecting him from a little mute girl.
"Whoa whoa whoa whoa!" I said, putting my hands on Schuyler's shoulders. "What's going on here?"
Before Grandma could say anything, Schuyler turned and angrily started giving her side, gesturing sharply and jabbering away in Moonmanese. When she heard this, Grandma's eyes grew large. I think it was only then that she realized that Schuyler was different.
"Go play, we'll talk in a little bit, okay?" I said to Schuyler. She looked at me warily for a moment and then darted back to the playground, the moment seemingly forgotten. Grandma looked at her as she ran off, confused.
"She's got a neurological condition," I said. "It keeps her from speaking. The tag she wears around her neck explains it all, that's why she was trying to show it to you."
"I didn't bring my reading glasses," Grandma said. "I didn't understand what she was trying to say."
We talked briefly. She said that Schuyler was pulling on her grandson as they got off the slide, and when she tried to talk to her about it, Schuyler sounded like she was mocking her with nonsensical babbling.
"Look," I said finally. "If you have any more problems, just come tell me, okay?" I walked away, saddened by the whole exchange. Schuyler had tried to explain, she'd done everything right, and still things had gone down badly.
I thought she'd blown it off, but about ten minutes later Schuyler came and sat beside me, sighing dramatically. (I have no idea who taught her to do that, but it's both heartbreaking and funny when she does it.) I pulled up the BBoW for her.
"What happened, Schuyler?" I asked. "What was she so angry about?"
"Me push him." When Schuyler gets upset, she tends to let the rules of language and structure fly out the window. She sounds like Robot Tarzan.
She didn't like that answer, however. "Me no push." She thought for a moment and then mimed a pulling gesture, her fists moving to her chest.
"You pulled him?" I asked. She nodded.
"Me sorry." She shrugged sadly and signed "play".
"You were just playing?" I asked. She nodded. "That's okay, you're fine. I know you didn't mean to do anything wrong. You just have to be gentle with people you don't know, okay?"
We sat silently, my arm around her. She leaned into me, and I could tell that she was frustrated by the whole experience. I gave her a few minutes and then leaned down and spoke the words that I use to bring her out of a funk, the ones that never fail, ever.
"Hey, Schuyler," I said. "Whatever you do, don't laugh."
She cracked up, reaching up and poking me on the nose. I told her even more sternly not to laugh, which of course busted her up more, and just like that, it was over.
We watched the grandsons play for a while longer, Schuyler seemingly content to just sit with her old man and be quiet. Before long, Grandma jumped up again and scurried out onto the playground.
"She was really mad, wasn't she?" I asked. Schuyler nodded and punched a few buttons on the BBoW.
Then she smirked and typed more.
And with a laugh, she made little T-rex claws and said, "Raar!"
Was she making fun of the old woman for being mean, or being old? Either way, it was genuinely funny.