There was a period of time where playdates made me sweat! Because it would take so much energy, I didn’t arrange many with known friends and I didn’t actively search out new contacts. I used to spend the car ride to the pre-arranged date, prepping my TBP for possible scenarios that could derail the visit…
“What do you do if you want to do something different from your friend?”
“Don’t forget to answer someone when they are talking to you”
“Even if you don’t want to stop, you have to stop playing and use the restroom”
“Are you hungry? Are you sure? You know it is hard sometimes to be friendly when you’re hungry?”
Looking back…it is no surprise that this was exhausting! I thought that I was doing the right thing and that the coaching was a must.
More times than not, we would leave early and I was frustrated by his clinging to me, lack of flexibility with the classmate, or he would ignore my requests when it was time to go. I am embarrassed to say that the conversation home was often an ongoing lecture about the mistakes that he made.
“Why wouldn’t you talk to your friend?”
“Why wouldn’t you play by the rules?’
“Why did you think it was a good idea to ___ ?”
I would drive home, frequently looking in the rear view window and my message was clear…that he had not behaved socially appropriate. Knowing what I know now, I could have (should have) handled these early playdates differently. I should have been softer and more supportive. I should have known that his immature social skills were a lack of skills that would come. These skills are coming, but not because I have forced them. The skills are here because he is ready and it was on his own time.
Those were the early years and now, things are so different.
This morning, we went to a friend’s house. This mom is open and caring and I know that she is not judging me or my son. I didn’t coach my TBP on the ride over and when we got there, he was quick to release my hand and engage with the kids. They ran through the house, playing with swords and chasing each other. Occasionally, I would stop him and check in and my friend did the same with her children. It can be tricky when my only child comes and wants to divide siblings that are usually on the same team. To my surprise, this threesome was content and took turns being “it” with only limited interference needed.
At the end of the visit, we took a walk around the large property. The kids clearly loved the adventure and felt a sense of freedom when they walked ahead of us. I watched this boy of mine and I saw a confident, secure, gangly boy laughing and playing without a single thought to stay right by my side. He wasn’t asking when we were leaving or complaining that it was cold. This was a boy that understood the value of spending part of today with friends. Outside and away from technology, my precious TBP was happy and is now excited to go back!