Faking It

Last summer we signed Mira up for gymnastics after she expressed an interest in finding an activity for herself. Mira had tried ballet before that, but we decided she just wasn’t right for ballet. No matter how hard the instructor tried to calm the kid down, it all moved too slowly for her. We hoped gymnastics, with the ability to jump, tumble, and flip, might be more her style.

One week into it, Cordy decided she wanted to be a part of it, too. We never thought Cordy would like gymnastics, but she really wanted to join in. We signed her up as well in the hopes that she might gain some confidence and improve her coordination.

Since then, Mira continues to love gymnastics and while not even close to the most coordinated kid in her class, she’s making progress. Mira insists she’ll be in the Olympics someday. Considering she’s an entire head taller than every other kid in the class of five year olds and trips over air, I doubt it, but I’m thrilled she has goals and works hard at improving.

Cordy, though, is not making any progress and instead is showing signs of being uninterested. She insists she likes going, but once there she’s usually too distracted by what the other classes are doing and then doesn’t want to try anything new or push herself outside of her comfort zone. Her teacher has been incredibly kind and patient with her, but I can tell even she is getting discouraged with Cordy’s unwillingness to put any confidence in herself.

She enjoys gymnastics and comes out with a smile on her face, but she’s made practically no progress with her skills and is becoming more and more distracted during class. We haven’t told Cordy yet, but this is her last session of gymnastics and we’ll encourage her to try another activity she might like more.

Last week, both girls appeared happy to go to gymnastics. After dinner, they put on their leotards and were all ready to go. Once there, they went to the benches to wait for their class to start, but then Cordy looked around for a minute and then went to the bathroom. Several minutes later, she came out frowning and sat back on the bench, clutching her stomach and looking miserable as she looked at me.

I waved Cordy to come talk to me, and she said she felt sick. I put my hand on her forehead (classic mom first move for a sick kid, right?) and she wasn’t warm. “My stomach really hurts, mom. I feel like I’m going to be sick,” she continued.

“Can you get through gymnastics?” I asked.

She sighed and clutched her stomach again. “I don’t know. I don’t think I can tonight because I don’t feel good.”

Her class was gathering to begin, so I had to make a quick judgement call. She was completely fine before we got there, but this is also my child who is honest to a fault at times. Her fear of missing out on something she’s supposed to do and disappointing a teacher generally pushes her to keep going even when she shouldn’t. Maybe she really was sick?

I texted Aaron, who was on his way from work, and let him know that Cordy was sick and needed to go home as soon as he got there. Cordy then came to sit in the parents’ waiting area with me. She walked there hunched over, looking miserable, but as soon as we reached the bleachers, she perked up as she climbed to the top row.

“Wow, mommy, these are fun! Look how high I can sit!”

I frowned. “I thought you didn’t feel good? Maybe you could join your class if you’re feeling better.”

Her eyes widened, and then her bright mood disappeared again. “Oh! Oh, I really don’t feel good. I just thought these seats were interesting.” She resumed crossing her arms over her stomach again.

Mira and her class were soon in front of us starting their first activities. And within minutes, Cordy was once again distracted. “Look, mommy, there’s Mira! Let’s wave to Mira!”

Again I asked, “Cordy, I thought you were sick?”

“Um, I can still cheer for my sister even when I’m sick, right?”

“Not with that much energy,” I responded.

She continued to go back and forth between looking ill and being distracted by something until Aaron got there. I realized by then that she had faked the whole thing. She wasn’t sick at all, she just didn’t want to do gymnastics that night. It’s the first time Cordy has ever lied about being sick to get out of doing something, and I totally fell for it. What’s worse – she had a good idea that I’d fall for it or she wouldn’t have done it.

In some ways, I’m proud of her for faking it. It’s often believed that kids on the autism spectrum have a hard time with lying, or can’t do it at all. She’s made up creative stories about why something didn’t get done before, or used the convenient “I forgot” excuse a few times (which in her case is often true), but she’s never out-and-out lied about being sick to avoid a task, complete with acting the part. True, she wasn’t very good at continuing the act, but she managed to keep it up long enough to fool me. So really, this is Cordy portraying very typical kid behavior, which is progress for her.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to celebrate a child who lies, either. When Aaron arrived, I specifically mentioned to him that I was certain she was faking it, and so he took her home to finish her homework and go to bed, since sick children don’t get to do anything fun like watch TV. She wasn’t so happy about that part, and I hope that will keep her from trying it again. He told me she seemed totally fine at home, too, further confirming my suspicions that she was never sick to begin with.

Even if she’s losing interest in gymnastics, I’m not letting her quit until this session is over. Both kids were asked if they wanted to sign up for the winter session and both said they wanted to, so I expect her to finish out what she agreed to. After that, Cordy is free to choose another activity to try.

I only hope she won’t try repeating her “sick day” again this week. I don’t like having to play both mom and talent scout to determine if she really is sick or is trying another performance piece in the hopes of winning the award of getting-out-of-work.

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Comments

  1. I agree with the making them stick it out. I always told my dis they could try any activity they were interested in,but once we signed and paid, they had to stick it out for the season/year/whatever. After one or two tries at things they lost interest in rather quickly they became more discriminating in what they chose to try.

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