Thursday, September 24, 2015

The blue sneakers

Sam has historically preferred the familiar to the new. He rarely noticed people outside his inner, trusted circle. In the last few weeks, however, something has changed.

For reasons unknown to me, Sam is interested in meeting new people, calling out an enthusiastic “Hi” to people as they pass by. Because Sam hasn’t developed a knack for securing joint attention before he speaks his success rate is spotty: some people answer back. Some do not. Fortunately, Sam is blessed with tenacity, resilience and a healthy self-esteem. He simply tries again. Or moves on. His success or failure doesn't dampen his enthusiasm for future encounters.

I've been watching Sam from the sidelines. I enjoy seeing each attempt unfold; watching the interactions. They usually consist of a quick “hello and how are you” before everyone moves on to their day. 

This weekend brought something different. For the first time ever, Sam engaged in an unprompted and extended conversation with someone he'd just met:

Sam:    Hi Diane
Diane: Hi Sam
Sam:    How are you?
Diane:  I'm fine. How are you?
Sam:    I'm good... (long pause) I like your shoes.
Diane:  Thank you.

For the first few seconds, it was a conversation anyone might have. And then it wasn’t as Sam abruptly bent down to get a closer look at her feet. He must have really liked her shoes. On his hands and knees, he felt the fabric of her blue shoes and explored their rubber trim. Diane didn’t seem to mind. A moment later he flashed a smile as he popped back up saying, “good blue shoes” and turned his attention to some newer faces.

That’s how it is with Sam. 

It's tricky finding the  balance between intruding on the space of another while allowing Sam the freedom to  explore and learn to navigate the social arena. There was a time when I might have jumped in and re-directed. I’ve learned to step back a little more and allow Sam the time to think and develop in a way that suits him.

These are exciting times for Sam. He’s pushing some through some new boundaries because he wants to – not because someone thinks he should. He’s enjoying these new interactions.


And I have the privilege of having a front row seat watching grow into his own unique Sam.

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