When Laura was Juan’s age one of my biggest concerns was whether she would grow up to have friends. She didn’t like being around others, and often seemed oblivious to other children even when they were in the same room.
I spent many, many night awake, worrying if she would always be alone.
I spent even more worrying that she was lonely.
Now aged eleven, I know I didn’t have worried. She is an amazing friend, kind, loyal and honest. And in return she is rewarded with an incredible group of girls, all of whom have her back in the way she has theirs.
There have been bumps in the road.
Lots of them.
But she has overcome them, and with every year worked harder to become the kind of friend she wanted to be. It hasn’t been easy for her, and I know there are times when her literal brain has been tested to its limits by her neurotypical friends. But the truth is she has learnt and so have they. They have grown together and found mutual understanding.
Yet today, despite our history, despite the fact that it is a fear I have faced before, that fear resurfaced.
This time not for Laura, but for Juan.
It’s unusual for me to get to nursery when the children are playing out, but today I did just that.
And for a while I just stood and watched.
Groups of children played together, chased each other, shared the same space together. But only Juan stood totally alone. Moving from area to area, leaving each one when other children arrived. Because he is not oblivious to their presence as his sister was, he actively avoids them.
And yet as I looked at his face he was not content, not in his bubble.
He was alone but he was also lonely. Not wanting their contact, but also not wanting his solitude.
And I wondered yet again whether I am doing the right thing. Whether he like his sister before him will grow to love spending time with peers. Or whether I am just putting him through unnecessary torment when he would rather be sheltered by me.
Only time will tell.