Today Jack had his first playdate (without the girl’s mom) with someone from his class at school. We were definitely working on this before, but now that we’re pretty sure that he’s somewhere on the autism spectrum, we are really trying hard to get him some social experience. This girl, Adorable Preschooler, is, well, adorable, and really nice. Her mom is a very kind, caring individual who is raising kind, caring children.
And we don’t want Jack to feel any more alone at school than he already is. He definitely flies under the radar, and although the other kids aren’t mean to him, a lot of the time they don’t seem to notice him. And a few weeks ago, Jack was passed over for a classmate’s birthday party. I overheard someone RSVPing to a 4th birthday party that we hadn’t heard about. Well, maybe it was a girls-only party? Nope, it was a boy’s mom doing the RSVPing. Maybe they’re old friends or neighbors? Nope–and I’ve known the mom for two years. Maybe their kids play together at school a lot? Well, no, when I’ve been co-oping in the class, I haven’t see them play more than any other kids. Maybe the girl didn’t want to or didn’t think to invite Jack?
I’m sure it was an innocent oversight, and I know there was no ill will. And, of course, I know that no one is under any obligation to invite my child to birthday parties, but it felt like an arrow to my heart. I’m tolerant of perceived or real rejection to myself, but it’s hard to see it happen to my child, even though he was totally unaware of it.
So I was really happy to hear that Adorable Preschooler had been asking her mom to have a playdate with Jack. She is so nice, I wasn’t worried about her at all, but I wanted Jack to PLAY with her. Something that he hasn’t always done well on other playdates. But here, with no other grown ups and only Quinn to distract me, I dove in to Jack Play 101.
Their first real interaction was when they both reached for the same Thomas the Tank Engine train. Small amount of hand flapping, and “noooo-ing” later, all was well. Then Adorable Preschooler played by herself (well, with me) for awhile, while Jack came and went.
Then I suggested a picnic. It was as if I struck gold! We all (!) set out little plates and drank (pretend) tea and ate (real) goldfish. Jack chatted with us, then said unprompted, “Quinn is my best friend. Adorable Preschooler is my best friend.” I almost started crying then and there. We continued with various success, a high point being when Jack and the AP played Peter Pan, by pretending they were flying into the ball pit. [Thanks, Mom. Without the Peter Pan common bond, we may have sat and stared at each other for two hours. I mean, picnicking was fun, but not 2 hours fun.]
I knew that both kids like to read, so I finished out the playdate with a half hour of reading. They weren’t playing together, but they were sitting next to each other. Does that count?
Pretty good for a first playdate.
ADDENDUM, POSTED MAY 5, 2007:
Of all the posts I’ve put up here, this one keeps niggling at my brain. I sort of want to clarify that, no, I don’t think the birthday party-giver did anything wrong by not inviting Jack. I firmly believe that you shouldn’t feel obligated to go anywhere, do anything, invite anyone just because it’s expected or conventional or whatever. You should do what makes you and your family happy. And this party didn’t affect Jack adversely in any way. And I don’t resent the mom in any way. She was low-key about it, didn’t advertise it in the classroom, and presumably invited kids her daughter wanted to invite. Cool. I don’t belive that this was any sort of slight. I think what it represented to me was the potential of future slights by kids. Slights that Jack will notice and care about. Slights that other kids will make to his face. There. I feel better. Now I don’t have to feel like the jerk that everyone has to give an invitation to or she’ll blog about it.