When Happy Boy is happy, he is very happy. He jumps straight into the air off the balls of his feet over and over, and runs around the room, talking excitedly. It happens most often when he plays Minecraft or completes a Lego creation.
But when Happy Boy is unhappy, he is very unhappy. He yells, he throws the first thing he can find, and he slams doors over and over. This happens most often when he is asked to stop a task before he’s finished.
Happy Boy is smart. Gifted. Mom and Dad have known this for years. It contributes to his frustrations. The anger is new, though. Last fall, they took him to see a psychologist could help him with that. When they met with the psychologist afterwards, she told Mom and Dad that Happy Boy is autistic.
It changes how Mom and Dad see Happy Boy’s challenges, but it doesn’t change the challenges themselves.
“I don’t want to go to school,” Happy Boy states unhappily. “It’s boring.”
“It’s not boring,” Mom says. “You like learning. You just don’t like waiting when you finish your work before everyone else, right? I dealt with that when I was a kid.”
“I don’t want to go!” Happy Boy shouts, ignoring Mom’s comment. “It’s BORING!”
“If you don’t stop shouting, there will be no Minecraft after school,” Dad says firmly.
“I WANT TO PLAY MINECRAFT!” Happy Boy yells even louder. He stomps and stomps and rushes toward Dad, arms raised and ready to hit.
“That’s enough!” Dad says, grabbing Happy Boy before he can hurt anyone.
“At least I can play Minecraft,” Sassy Girl says.
“Sassy Girl, we don’t need your sassiness right now,” Mom tells her.
“I want to play,” Happy Boy wails, crying now, “but I can’t because I got angry, and I wish I hadn’t.”
He runs to Mom, who crouches down and holds out her arms, ready to give him a hug. Hugging Happy Boy is the first step toward making him happy again.
“What if you can play Minecraft?” she asks. “After school?”
Happy Boy wipes the tears from his eyes. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll go to school.”
“I get to watch Maizen,” Friendly Boy brags, flashing his signature smile.
“Mom!” Happy Boy complains.
“I won’t let him watch anything you haven’t already seen,” Mom promises. “You can play Minecraft after school, anyway. Friendly Boy doesn’t play Minecraft.”
Happy Boy and Sassy Girl get on their shoes, coats, and backpacks and head out the door without any more fuss.
Thinking about Minecraft helps Happy Boy as he goes about his day. When he gets bored after finishing his math problems, he thinks about the characters he can build and the mechanisms he can create. When it’s time for his class to go to the library, he overcomes his shyness and asks the librarian where he can find the Minecraft books. When he finishes a writing assignment, he sketches Minecraft characters and scenes on the back of his schoolwork.
“Hi, Mom!” he calls as he bursts through the door after school.
He isn’t looking at Mom, though. His eyes are focused on the TV to see what Sassy Girl is playing. She’s already playing Minecraft.
“Can I join in?” Happy Boy asks.
“Yes,” Sassy Girl answers. “But don’t break my creations.”
Mom hands him a game controller and sits back down on the couch to play a game of her own on her phone.
Happy Boy logs into the game, then runs off to get the Super Kids’ laptop. Today, he wants to watch an online video that shows him how to build a Pokéball house.
“Mom, look!” Happy Boy says every thirty seconds, excited to show her the next step in the building process. He talks with barely a break and Mom can’t pay complete attention with all the other demands on her time. Friendly Boy is worried about the tablet battery dying in the middle of his game and wants the charger, and Feisty Girl is running into the kitchen, trying to find something interesting in the trash can or a cabinet with a broken child lock.
Happy Boy doesn’t seem to mind. As long as he gets attention, it doesn’t matter that it’s divided.
Mom still manages to find a few seconds to watch Happy Boy and Sassy Girl as they play together. For those few seconds, all of the Super Kids are happy—especially Happy Boy. He jumps straight into the air, excited to see that the Pokéhouse he’s building actually does look like a Pokéball.
It will be hard, Mom knows, when she has to tell him it’s time to stop playing. He will most likely scream and shout and stomp.
For now, though, he’s happy to do the one thing that brings the most peace to his mind—create.