Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘play date

I wasn’t expecting a friend

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A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself

– Jim Morrison

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 2, 2010 at 5:00 am

A simple play date.

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There is no such thing as a simple play date.

On Friday Pudding had one with a girl new to the area- E.  Every time we gamble that the children will like each other, and will…you know…PLAY together.    They are hard for Pudding, but they’re also hard for me.  The most simple of activities just become too complicated.  Nothing brings home the stark differences between her and her peers like a play date.

Play dates are no fun, but they are necessary.  Pudding spends all her time at school with other children on the spectrum, so she needs time with children who are typically developing.  We’ve tried a few over the course of the last year, and I’m starting to get more familiar with what will and won’t work.  It helps if we are in a neutral place, and the child and her parent(s) are familiar.

I’m starting to think I don’t like an easy life, because I disregarded all of that on Friday.

E’s mother, B had emailed me.  B had just arrived two weeks ago, both to the area and to this country.  She had heard from my husband’s colleague that there was another English mummy living just five minutes away, also with a 3 year-old girl, and wanted a friend for her daughter.  Because there is nothing more than I want than friends for my daughter, because ex-pats always cling to each other, because I’ve been in her shoes, I agreed.  I wrote a post about how I hadn’t told B about Pudding’s diagnosis.  A lot of that was because I felt very awkward having this conversation over email with someone I’d never met.  Also, I felt bad that all this lady wanted to do was have a simple play date, and because of who we are, things were never going to be simple.  Having been encouraged to talk with the mother beforehand by Jess and others commenting, I emailed her and warned her what to expect.

We had to meet at their house, as B doesn’t yet have a car.  E just had a few toys, as the rest of them had been packed away and shipped very slowly, to arrive a few weeks form now.  It immediately takes me back to a year ago, when we were in the same situation.  Pudding missed her old life, she didn’t have the language to tell us how she felt, so she used a variety of things to comfort her.  She became obsessed with controlling us, her brother, her environment.  She hated people coming and going without warning.  We saw lots of hand-flapping, jumping up and down, spinning around.  She could no longer be alone, especially at night.  And then there were the tantrums, so many tantrums, so much worse than we’d seen before.  We had so many questions.  Autism was the simple, complicated answer.

E was waiting in the window for us to arrive, and B greeted us warmly.  Pudding said hello to both, as E hung back a little shy, not returning the greetings.  B told me this was new- she no longer liked saying hello and goodbye.  B had set up paper and pencils to draw, something that both Pudding and Cubby love.  E didn’t like them touching her pencils, and got a little upset.  I recognized it.  We moved outside where they could play in the sand, and before long, E was having a tantrum about Cubby spilling her sand, and Pudding putting water in her sand.  Because the sand was allowed to touch the water, but the water couldn’t touch the sand.  Oh yes, I recognized it.

What did I recognize?  No, not this time.  Not autism.  My spectrummy sense was in no way engaged, E is a perfectly neurotypical child as far as I can tell.  I recognized what I saw in Pudding when we moved from Europe, what I couldn’t see until now because I was blaming autism for everything.  Something that was worse for Pudding because she was on the spectrum, but painful too for this child.  I saw a little kid whose world had been rocked, whose familiar people were gone and favourite possessions seemed to have disappeared.  Who wanted to make sure no one took the few things she had.  Who hated the hellos and goodbyes that signaled people coming and going out of her life without her control.  A kind of anxiety that might be peculiar to little ones uprooted and replanted in foreign soil.

The sand was too tempting for my sensory-seekers to keep out of, so we moved inside.  The sparsity of toys really came into play, as everything Pudding touched was quickly snatched back by E.  B was embarrassed by her daughter’s inability to share, so I talked to her about how normal it was, in their current abnormal situation.  She didn’t have to worry about correcting E, this was her time to get comforted.  She didn’t have to worry about what I thought- I’d been there, no judgment here.  And Pudding?  Pudding is the perfect playmate for a child feeling this way.  She won’t snatch back, she won’t feel hurt, she’ll just move on.  At times I’ve lamented these passive tendencies, but for this play date, they were perfect.  She was perfect.

Of course, with nothing to do, Pudding had taken to galloping around the room, and Cubby was on a suicide mission on the stairs.  With a little coaching though, the two girls were playing chase, and Cubby was on my lap.  I’d brought enough allergy-safe snacks for all of them, so no jealousy there.  We found more similarities between the girls.  E is also a fashionista, requiring a costume change mid-play.  Both of the girls claimed Sleeping Beauty as their favourite princess, though I think Pudding takes her special interest a step further!

I made haste to get us out of there before the whole thing unfurled, but not before B had suggested meeting up again.  This time I’ll collect them so we can all play with Pudding’s toys, which she is happy to share with anyone who isn’t her brother.  We didn’t say goodbyes, but Pudding gave E a big hug, and my heart did a happy dance as E returned it, smiling.

Thinking there would only be differences, I was amazed by the similarities.  This worked because Pudding is the way she is.  Our messy, complicated selves are sometimes exactly what is required.  Our experiences, hard as they might be, can be necessary to fully relate, understand and empathize.  Why was I feeling guilty that we can’t be simple?  I’m proud of how complicated we are.

There is no such thing as a simple play date, which is just as well, because we can’t do simple if we try!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 3, 2010 at 8:41 am

Coming Out

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I once had a conversation with a friend, who is gay, about Coming Out.  He explained that coming out is a big deal, you build up to it, it takes all your nerve, you finally do it and feel an enormous sense of relief.  Then it dawns on  you that you just came out to a few people, and there are about 6 billion more on this planet.  You have to keep doing it, over and over again every time you meet someone new.  And every time you worry about how they are going to deal with this information.  How will it change they way you are perceived?  Are they even worth sharing this personal information with?

Almost exactly a year ago, we started to notice Pudding’s differences.  We were scared and confused; overwhelmed by the A-word.  We had to acknowledge that our visions of her future did not belong to her, and it was okay to let go of them.  She was the same little girl she always had been; that is to say, a little different.  Still, it was hard to tell friends and family.  We knew our parents would feel that same fear for her future. We hated that awkward silence when we told friends.  It gets easier, though, and the more we feel comfortable about talking, the more questions people are asking.  Questions are easier to deal with than silence.  Questions lead to understanding.  Silence leads to shame.

There is another way.  Pudding’s disability is invisible.  We could keep quiet, hide her secret.  Unfortunately, secrets imply shame, and shame leads to stigma.  We don’t ever want her to feel ashamed about who she is.  We want to take these diagnostic words and demystify them.  To learn about the community of “Aspies” and “Auties” who not only aren’t ashamed of who they are, but take pride in their differences, and their contributions to this world.  We are determined that Pudding and Cubby will grow up taking pride in who they are, whoever they turn out to be.  It will be difficult.  As they get older they may not choose to be open, and that will be their choice.  It is our job to make sure they feel confident and strong enough to make that choice.

I’m thinking about this because on Friday Pudding will have a play date with a new friend.  I’ve been corresponding with the mother over email, but I haven’t mentioned that Pudding has autism.  Do I let her know before we meet so that she is prepared?  Or do I let her and her daughter meet Pudding first, so they can see there is more to her than a diagnosis?  I’m not sure what to do.  Even spectrummy mummies don’t know everything!  Suggestions in the comments please.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 27, 2010 at 7:08 am