Now that rages and panic attacks are at a minimum, we have to work on some of the social skills he's missed while being so sick. My goal for John at the park on Thursday was to approach some children at the playground and join in whatever they were playing. He tends to take RC cars or toys to the playground and pretend to play with them hoping it will attract the attention of other kids. It never does and he's always disappointed. Another thing he does is simply follow kids around hoping they'll invite him to play. Sometimes they do, but he doesn't want to play what they are already doing. He wants them to do things his way.
The goal was a big one. When John used to participate in Awanas he would PANIC when they started playing most games. He would panic if they sang a song he didn't know all the words to. He's run crying to me when other kids have invited him to try something new before.
But, we've been working.... so we got to the park and... Praise the Lord, there were lots of children. He tried the looking-bored technique and I reminded him of his goal.
He played near the children for a while and about 10 minutes later, I overheard a girl asking some other children who wanted to be "it" for tag. I looked at John and told him to ask if he could play. He did it! He did it clearly enough the girl understood him and he did it without drooling! She asked if he wanted to be it. He accepted the job. She told him to start counting. So he hunkered down and began.
I watched attentively while pretending I was hovering over Hannah. Miss Indepent really didn't need as much help as I made it seem. John continued to count. The other children squealed and ran to different places. John still counted. Hannah climbed a ladder and slid down a slide. John was counting.
Oh my goodness... it was like programming a loop in BASIC on an Apple IIe in middle school.
- 10 Start counting
- 20 Goto 10
Something HAD to be done. I needed to Command-Open Apple-Reset my son. I nonchalantly speak through my teeth, kindof a thrown whisper, "John, how far are you supposed to count?"
He raised his hands in desperation. There was frustration in his eyes. He said, "I dddooon't know."
"I think that's enough. Go catch the kids."
And he was off! Whew, a whole reboot was avoided and nothing crashed. He ran around and around. Children narrowly dodged his grasp. They all made it back to base. He was it again. He giggled and ran and chased and caught a much smaller little girl. The older playground leader who organized the game said, "Don't catch these two. They're too little. They don't count." Drat, she had no idea how delayed John was socially. I thought the half-pints were perfect for John's abilities. But, wow, it wasn't obvious to her John wasn't as capable as she was at this game!!! So she told him he was it again.
I started to mom-fret. You know, that's where you see injustice and you want to fix it but you want to let it work out on it's own. Sometimes intervention is necessary and has no side effects. Other times intervention works against your mom-intentions (related but not identical to mom-fret). If your mom-intentions are thwarted, you face causing greater problems than the original injustice and causing future problems as your child has not learned to work things out himself. Mom-fret always happens when there is little time to make a decision. It is never a black and white decision. Wording is of utmost importance. A mom-fret also involves wondering just who to address: another child or your own?
The source of my mom-fret is that John does very, very badly with perceived failure. He had failed to successfully catch anyone twice now. I wasn't sure he perceived it as failure or not. The catch and release issue with the younger child compounded things. It could mean he felt challenged or corrected by the leader. In the past, situations like this have caused complete melt-downs that turned into rages for an hour or more. I could've encouraged John but he might have seen that as embarrassing or interfering. I felt that he was taken advantage of because the other kids were working together to get past him and some of the rules were changing and he's really just a social baby.... Or, he might learn to say, "Okay, I'm tired of being it. Someone else needs to take a turn." if left to fend for himself.
In a moment of momness, where preservation of your own child's fragile self preceeds all other impulses, I say to the leader, "Do you have a limit on the number of times someone can be it in a row?" I try to sound like I'm just curious, for clarification's sake.
Another little girl, Leader's Associate said, "Three times in a row is enough. This is his last time." Apparently the new rule was ratified by her supervisor with an approving nod of the head. My heart rate slowed to normal. No mom-fret side effects, phewwww.
So he's it again and he catches no one. Leader's Associate volunteers. They play many rounds and John learns through trial and error what base is and how to say "1-2-3 base on me". He learns to stay in bounds through a minor correction by Leader's Associate. Sometimes he is caught and becomes it. Sometimes he is safe. He plays and he plays hard. It is a group of children aged 5 to 10. He fit somewhere in the middle. To everyone present, including me, he looked like a "normal" kid. When most of them had to leave, he waved bye and played a little by himself. We left the park about 15 minutes later.
This was the first time John has ever played at a playground and interacted with other children that not one single tear was shed. He didn't even throw a tantrum when we left. Hannah took care of that ritual!
On Thursday.... that boy was really IT and possibly a bag of chips! I'm so proud!