Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Playdates

An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks ago. We were walking into a—not so—local restaurant for Easter dinner with my family and spotted a family that we knew. Actually, they’re one of our neighbors who live up the street from us, and their kids used to play with my kids—especially with Nick, and expecially this one girl he liked. It was actually a nice period of time, a few years back, that kids would come into our yard and play with my kids… Ahhh, doesn’t that sound so nice!? And how did I pull that one off? I mean, how did I get a bunch of neighborhood kids interested in playing with my special needs kids who could not leave their yard. I vamped up my backyard with every toy imaginable—that’s how. I added a huge swing set w/ a fort, a fun trampoline, a basketball hoop, badminton, horseshoes, baseball game… get the picture? I bribed them to play with my kids without the actual contract. Until the day came that they all got bored. Sad! But the good part of this story was that when all the kids had dissipated and went off to the next fun yard, there was one boy who lingered. He was our immediate neighbor who happened to be the exact same age as Nick, and he would come over to play with him almost everyday, and sincerely, too! They would play on the trampoline together, then go to the family room and play a Play Station game… it was so nice for Nick, and I think this boy enjoyed himself, as well.

Then one morning while I was making coffee and looking out the window, my eyes did a doubled take in the direction of this boy’s front yard—I squatted, squinted, and with my mouth hung open wide, I saw the sign: For Sale.

Fuc* was my immediate reply.

But back at the restaurant, we said our very pleasant hellos to our neighbors and their extended family and moved on to our table led by the hostess. At the very next table from ours was a girl who I immediately recognized as a friend of Nick’s from school; a girl he knew from his special needs classroom. I said Hello to the girl and then quickly scanned the table to where her mother was sitting… I said a very nice hello, as did she, and as she was telling her husband who I was… I saw a look in her eyes that clearly said: You snob!

Meanwhile, Nick sat at his seat that was somewhat facing the girl’s chair. After seeing the girl, he immediately placed his hood from his hoodie on his head and I had to say, “Uh Nick, no hood, buddy.” I knew what he was doing; he was trying to hide.

I called it being civilized. I did not care about the people who were sitting next to us (either one of the tables) or their feelings about me, etc…We were having a nice dinner with our family--as were they--and that was all.

I bet you want to know what happened, dontcha!!?

Before I tell you the interesting details, I will tell you that it was an interesting dichotomy to be sitting between these two groups of families—that was for sure!!

At the beginning of the year, or shortly after, Nick was invited to this girl’s house for a playdate. After asking him if he wanted to go over her house and he replied yes, I called to make the playdate appointment. (Strange to say appointment isn’t it? Growing up as a kid in my small development, one merely ran around the neighborhood and pounded on any door that looked fun to play at…). On that day, I drove Nick to his playdate since he could not go over by himself because it was about 4 miles away, and even it wasn’t that far, I still couldn’t have him go to a compete strangers house by himself. (Again, unlike when I grew up. I remember banging on the door of the “new people's house” in the neighborhood and asking if she (the woman) had children—and when she said No, she asked me if I wanted to come in for some tea and cookies. I, of course, said yes—I mean, really now!! But how bored must this woman have been… entertaining a young, dirty 7-year-old girl who had just climbed a tree (probably) and sporting bare feet (most likely) with tea poured from a china teapot and offering tea cookies on a silver tray!! Uh, well I exaggerated the silver tray part, but you get my point!)

Now I’m not that experienced with playdates… it’s been a while. But I wasn’t just going to drop him off and leave… From the way the girl’s mother welcomed Nick into the house, it seemed like that was her plan. No, I hung out and was deathly bored. But that was okay, I mean… I wanted Nick to have fun on his playdate—or date. Do 14-year-olds have playdates?? This girl has special needs too. Down Syndrome, actually, and she was very sweet and nice to Nick, and who also seemed to have a crush on him. I think Nick was curious about where she lived and, well, being asked over to her house was new for him; it doesn’t come along very often. Um, almost never, actually!

To make a long story short, the following week I offered to have the girl come to our house… and we had pizza, soda drinks, and some wine for the mom. Then the following week, the mom emailed me to have Nick come over again. Nick agreed and I sat there talking with the mom for an hour and Nick was doing nothing more than watching TV with the girl. Bottom line, they had nothing in common, and by the next invitation, Nick asked me if he “had” to go over and I said “absolutely not.” So he declined. Actually, I had to do the dirty work and tell them that he was busy, etc. And after three, or so, emails later, she finally got the hint that Nick didn’t want to come over… at least that’s what I would have thought. I mean, what is one to do??

Unfortunately, the girl started being a little mean to Nick at school—she was in the next classroom over from Nick’s class and would see him intermittently throughout the day. I knew it was her way of being mad at Nick for not coming over anymore.

And this mom’s face at the restaurant had said it all.

I mean, what is one to do?

All’s fair in love and war; all’s fair in special needs and typical kids alike, whether we like it or not.

2 comments:

Shea's Mom said...

Yes, this is a tough one.

On one hand you want to open up doors to friendships and help facilitate. But on the other, one needa to honor who they want to be friends with.

That mother probably doesn't think you are snob, just sad that it didn't work out.

Friends for kids with special needs is such a delicate subject. You probably have a lot in common with her despite the kids not hitting it off.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

The other mother has to realize that special needs kids - like everyone else - are individuals with different interests and personalities, and that just because her daughter and Nick are in the same class doesn't mean they're guaranteed to be close friends. Hopefully she'll come around and not feel slighted - or view it that way.