Saturday, September 14, 2013

Social Progress

I was expecting things to go to hell in a handbasket in a big hurry when Thing Two's friend said that he didn't like playing video games anymore.

My kids rarely have time for playdates, which is pretty sad.  Not so much that any one of them has *that* much going on relative to what passes for normal around here, but a "normal" load of activities times three kids means that we just aren't home after school very often.  Saturday mornings are usually basketball or soccer practice, Saturday afternoons are the only unscheduled time for the kids to spend with Himself, and Sundays are church and eternal, everlasting soccer games.  So, on this beautiful Saturday afternoon with Himself away, I took the opportunity to set up playdates for all three of my kids.

Petunia had a "drop-off" playdate, which she loves.  She got to spend the afternoon at a friend's house.  Both Thing One and Thing Two had friends over here, which meant that I had four boys between the ages of 8 and 11 at my house for an extended period.  The boy playdates started with a friendly melee involving soccer balls, basketballs, and frisbees in the front yard.  But when the two older boys decided to go inside to play Wii, it almost got ugly.

The only thing that Thing Two loves more than watching other people play electronic games is playing them himself.  The older boys asked the younger ones to join them, but Thing Two's friend really didn't want to.  You could see the struggle on Thing Two's face: do what I want to do or what my friend wants to do???

To the kid's credit, he remembered the (many, MANY) conversations we've had over the years about how to be a good friend and playdate host and agreed to go back outside with his friend.   They threw a baseball around and played hide-and-seek until the friend's mother came to pick him up.  The playdate was an unalloyed success, still amazing from my perspective.  He's come SO far in learning how to interact socially with his peers, and he has some honest-to-God friends now who are patient with his idiosyncrasies.  Maybe a day will come when I don't feel like I have to stress so much about every playdate the kid has, because he'll finally have gotten the social thing down.

In the meantime, he's making progress, no doubt.  But it does still come with a cost, sometimes a big one.  A friend hosted a lovely cocktail party at her home this evening.  I got myself all gussied up, left the kids with a beloved and trusted sitter, and went to the land of adults for a while.  When I got home, every light in the house was on and Thing Two was sobbing hysterically in his bed, with the sitter trying to calm him.  He hadn't been to sleep yet and it was after ten PM.  My first thought was that the kid was sick: maybe feverish. I called him into the hall and sat on the top step with him cradled against my chest.  A quick lips-on-forehead test indicated that there was no fever, but he was absolutely beside himself, probably with sheer exhaustion.  My guess is that the physical activity plus the social strain of trying to act appropriately today tuckered him out--he just lost it and then couldn't calm himself back down.  Having learned a few things about how to effectively break that cycle over the years (gentle pressure and a loud SHHH noise), it didn't take me long to settle him down, and he crashed into a dead sleep almost immediately.  Poor little thing.

Two steps forward, one step back.


  1. Oh, poor dear. That hurts.

    I'm trying to get my kids to be better at playing with their friends (more generous). My daughter will just ditch her friend and go off to watch TV or something. I just cannot even fathom it. So we're working on that.

  2. We have a low-key 'pep talk' right before all of Thing Two's play dates, just so the reminders are fresh in his head. Ask what his friend wants to do, cooperate and play together, say ''thank you for coming" and not get upset when it's over. He really has gotten a lot better. And I guess I did have to have these talks with my older son too...he was just much younger when he was learning how to play nicely with others!! I'm a head case with Thing Two' play dates, because he's 8 and the expectations are a lot higher at this age. :( Thankfully, his best friend's mom has known him for a long time and understands his issues, so she is beyond kind and welcoming when he goes to her house!


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