Monday, March 15, 2010

Leprechauns and lectures

We have a "tot lot" at the head of our street. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it's a mini-playground, usually with just one structure and meant for small kids. The ground is covered with wood chips to cushion the inevitable fall. It's a great place for our kids to let off steam, except... not just the little kids use it. The big kids do, too, namely teenagers. Except they use it as an ashtray.

You can imagine how delightful that is: teaching your child to be careful as they climb, slide, and dodge cigarette butts. I overheard one of my neighbors say, "It would be nice if we could actually talk to the people who leave the cigarettes here. They're probably teenagers. You think it would make a difference?" We all laughed at the absurdity.

Today I was parked near the tot lot as I waited for my little guy with Asperger's syndrome to arrive on the school bus. A car pulled up next to me and three large teenage boys got out. They sauntered over to the lot. In my rearview mirror, I watched them light up. I sighed. Wouldn't it be funny if I confronted them, I thought. What would they do? Laugh at me and mock me? Roll their eyes? What exactly would I say, and how would I say it? I pondered. Then the bus arrived.

As my son ran down the bus stairs, I decided. I grabbed his hand and marched over to the tot lot. As we approached, I watched the teens' body language. They stiffened as we drew closer. Finally, realizing that we were there to talk to them, they turned to face me. I thought I might appeal to their adult side. I hoped.

"Hey guys, the parents who bring their small children here think it's pretty gross that you leave your butts on the ground."

They were startled. I suppose they expected a harangue about their health. I continued.

"When you're done here, could you please throw your cigarettes in the trash?" Of course, I didn't think about the fire hazard, but it's been raining for days here.

They were speechless for a moment. They looked at each other and, likely realizing that my request was entirely reasonable, they nodded. "Yeah, okay."

No derision. In fact, they seemed to hang their heads. That threw me, and I could do nothing but stand there, lost for what to do next.

Thank goodness for my little Aspie, who can't read facial expressions or voice intonation, or in this case, be aware of an awkward situation. He yelped,

"Hey guys! Wanna know how to catch a leprechaun? You get a box with a trap door..."

He then proceeded to lecture them about trapping those elusive little green men. He was quite entertaining. We all laughed as we walked away.

I'm pretty sure that's not the lecture they were expecting.


ctarbet said...

I love it! I think it's hard to be an adult sometimes. We have to do things that we normally don't want to do. Then, when we don't know what to do next, our kids always come through!! Thanks for sharing this. Give S a huge hug for me!!

Tracie said...

Good for you! And what great timing S!

Jodi said...

That's awesome! Nice move on the logical discussion with the teens. They probably had never thought about it before--the effects of leaving their cigarettes on the ground. Love how your little guy diffused the awkwardness without even meaning to.:)

Lindsay said...

Great post.

Melinda said...

And this is why you are awesome! You are an inspiration. Thank you.