We have the most amazing team of specialists who work with our son. Really. Every single teacher he’s had since preK has been awesome. ABA therapists have all been excellent. All of his medical providers are doctors who treat our son with compassion and wisdom. But due to the immense number of doctors, teachers and therapists who interact with our son, we are inundated on an almost daily basis with suggestions and advice. All of it comes from a good place. These people want nothing less than to help our son reach his potential. They give us advice on how to help him develop physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. We do our very best to take their ideas, and implement their suggestions at home. We do. In many ways, we’d be lost without guidance from our team. But, I’m telling you, the next person who tells me I should plan more play dates for my kid had best beware. Because that person is going to get an earful. Period.
First of all, we live in New England and it’s winter. Scheduling ANYTHING is just an enormous exercise of frustration.
Second, you try scheduling around G’s ABA schedule. Two hours of ABA twice a week. And that’s not even taking S’s schedule into account.
Third, play dates are HARD WORK. When S has a play date, I’m in heaven. S and her friend will drift off upstairs, and not be heard from again for well over an hour (except for the occasional giggle that escapes from her room). When G has a friend over, I’m the interpreter, trying to bridge the gap between what G wants to do and what the friend wants to do. If I push too hard on G, it won’t be fun for anyone. If I don’t push hard enough, the friend will end up wondering why he was invited to begin with, if G spends the whole play date on his own.
Finally, play dates make me sad. The way G interacts with friends is different than the way his peers interact. Not better, not worse, just different. G is a happy kid when left to his own devices. But putting him in a room with another 6 year old, and enforcing a set of expectations that don’t make any particular sense to G, can be depressing. Yes, he needs to learn how to interact in a “socially appropriate” way. Yes, he needs to learn the give and take of social interactions so that he can forge relationships throughout his life. Yes, he needs to learn to take others’ perspectives and listen to his friends’ ideas. I get that. But watching the amount of effort G makes to live up to these expectations makes me sad. I wish it wasn’t so hard for him.
So, in case you were wondering, I rate planning play dates right up there with scheduling a visit to the dentist. It’s one of the things I keep up with because I know it’s healthy in the long run. But I look forward to planning play dates about as much as I look forward to a root canal.
Ed note: I’m not talking about the kind of play date where two kids really like each other and request to spend time together. We have that kind of play date occasionally… and it’s truly a joy. I’m talking about the kind of play date that I schedule in response to the teacher/doctor/therapist/etc telling me that it would be good for G to expand his repertoire of play skills, and isn’t there someone in his class/neighborhood/baseball team/etc he would like to play with?