Ben has always been a shy kid. Shy, clingy, anxious. And I'm probably largely to blame for this -- by all accounts I was much the same at that age, and for a long time after. He's more comfortable with adults and older kids, but his view of peers ranges from disinterest to antipathy. He's not antisocial in the sense of being aggressive or violent; he'd just be far happier if all the other kids weren't there and he had the entire classroom and all the teachers to himself. The kids are usually out in the play yard when I go to pick him up, and sometimes I'll watch for a few minutes through the large windows before I go out to claim him. I always feel a little sad when I see the other kids ranging around in herds, running after each other, calling out to each other. And there's Ben, wrapped up in his own complex little world, creating masterful cuisine in the kitchen area or conducting Beethoven from the top of a hill or explaining to one of the aids that ABBA will be visiting later and they're currently boarding a plane in Sweden. You gotta marvel at his sophisticated imagination, and he seems entirely content, and yet I feel a twinge of sadness and anxiety.
We made some progress via play dates. We especially enjoyed hanging out with a boy who was in Ben's previous classroom the year before, and whom we also saw weekly in music class last winter. We managed to meet up with him maybe four or five times this summer, and would have met more except for all the trips we were taking. The boys played well near/with each other, and C. made charming attempts to engage Ben. There was a lot of potential there, but still some work to be done. Summer play dates are often complicated by the temptation of water play, and until Ben got his Neptune this meant that he was unable to hear for much of the time. We tried to make this as normal and nonthreatening as possible, but it inevitably throws up a pretty big social barrier and kinda defeats the purpose.
Then, another former classmate moved in down the street! Furthermore, he has a cousin who is yet another former classmate and who comes over just about every day, so we got two for the price of one. The family is only here short term, renting the house while they build another. But for now, nothing beats the convenience and spontaneity of having friends right on the block. Our doorbell is now ringing most of the afternoon, followed by the sweet supplication, "Can Ben come out and play?" Now, Neil and I are Older Parents, rather set in our ways, and perhaps a touch overprotective, so sometimes it's not exactly to our taste to have three boys rampaging through the house and yard, and heaven knows what they're getting into. We were quite surprised at the degree of freedom that cousins B. and R. are granted to roam the neighborhood unsupervised. But we're doing our best to roll with it. And, miracle of miracles, Ben loves hanging out with the boys.
Last night, B. rang the doorbell and invited Ben over to play with a configuration of cardboard boxes in his front yard. Ben couldn't go out just yet, but promised to join him in a few minutes. So, after we finished the task at hand (slicing yam with the mandolin to make yam chips -- tasty, but disappointingly soggy), Ben grabbed his sunglasses and dashed out the door yelling, "Bye! I won't be long!"
I feel like if I blink, he'll be asking for the car keys and rolling his eyes when I ask him where he's going.
"I Cannot Even Smile Here"
4 weeks ago