I have a house with five rampaging little boys and I’m thrilled. This is the first year that I have ever worried about Ray’s social skills. He has always been a leader, full of imagination and games and able to negotiate little boy play with aplomb. I have, in fact, marveled at his ability to include others and adapt to their play. I tell a story in my book about one day when he was four and playing with his bestest friend at the time, a five-year old girl (Ah, the days of innocence before girls got icky). They were in a park with big rocks for climbing. He wanted to play dinosaurs and she wanted to play house. “Fine,” he said with total confidence. “We can be velociraptors and you can be the Mommy velociraptor and I’ll be the Daddy velociraptor and I’ll go fight other raptors for eggs,” and he was off and running. They played together happily- while she scrambled the “eggs” he won for her. He’s always played well with other children, taking their idea and coming up with a creative solution that appeals to all. But he’s been little- little kids are easy. Little kids are less judgmental. Little kids tend to play well with everyone.
But this year, he’s not as little. This year, he’s developed differences. His Tourette’s got worse and he rolls his eyes and spits. His speech, always cute, started being a problem by sounding “young”. His “r”s and “l”s were blurry. He’s very small for second grade, about the size of a first grader or even a kindergartner. His achievement is good, but not great. Except for reading- his reading is 5 years ahead of everyone else’s. He started telling me that he was spending an awful lot of time in the library. My heart hurt for him. Things were breaking down.
We have intentionally stayed in touch with his bestest friend, Jack, from Kentucky- the friend who knew him “before”. But we also started actively campaigning for friends. We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood 1/2 mile from their school, where, as someone once said, “You can pick children off the trees”. There are LOTS of children. He played basketball. He played soccer. We got him a spiffy red bike. We asked friends from school over. I have massive stocks of popsicles in the freezer. We do not have video games and we do not have toy guns to play with, but we have all kinds of building toys, scientific toys, sports materials, and games. We have a drum set. We have lots of temptations…
And today after school, one friend from school came home with him and three other boys from the neighborhood dropped by. The boys tore the couches apart, built forts with the cushions, every pillow in the house, and most of the covers, rode their bikes from one house to another, played spy games and turned every object into a gun or a bomb as they played WWII. They argued over who had to play the Nazis and who got to be the GIs. Ray turned the 5th boy, the Odd Man Out, into the “judge” of the spying activity. They raced the dog, and ate 12 popsicles. I had to ask them not to jump on the couches, eat their popsicles outside, and to please throw the wrappings in the trash can.
Our house is pillaged, and I’ve never been so happy to clean up a mess before. It means that things are coming back together.
- Brandon: Hey, Joe! Can you tie shoes?
- Joe: Wow! Look at that! That’s old school!