Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It Don't Mean a Thing if You Ain't Got that Swing

G's favorite pastime: swinging. Last year I'd hear reports that G didn't socialize at recess. I was heartbroken whenever I volunteered at the school and stayed for recess. I'd watch him play alone. I tried to facilitate play with his classmates, but most often G lost interest to his own obsessive play habits or just led me around. Clearly, playing with mom wasn't cool for his peers to see, even in 1st grade. I began to simply try to forge connections for him within the classroom and left before recess.

A dear friend gathered a few moms to set up a "G playday program" with their sons from his classroom. Each day, a different boy was assigned to ask G to join in their fun and games at recess. I'd ask G daily who he played with. He often couldn't remember their names or got them wrong, though he'd known most of them for 2 years. He'd just as often say he'd played for awhile and then gone on the swings by himself.  
"Sometimes I just want to swing the whole recess, Mom!" he explained.
"Don't you want to play along with the others and run and laugh and play games?"  
 "Some of the other kids get mad at me because I play their games wrong."
"Ask your "buddies" to teach you the rules. Or find another group that's doing something you enjoy and play with them." 
"Really Mom, I don't care about playing with anybody. Swinging makes me feel all better."

One day I asked him who he played with and what they'd done at recess. He told me Boy A, when I knew that he'd played with Boy A the day prior and played with Boy B this day.

"Really G, I know you played with Boy B today, I talked to his mom." 
"Nope. It was Boy A. It was wearing the same coat as yesterday."

IT! .....Coat!
This truly brought home the realization of how deeply I overestimated his social awareness. No facial recognition, because G never looked at the boy's face. No personification, because IT was merely a plaything, not a person. I cried for days. Then I moved on. As we must.

Hope. I'm not holding my breath, but this year G may be getting more socially active. I gave up pressuring him and badgering him about being social after the grand lesson from last year about It Boy. But now he offers up his recess adventures more freely. He tells me that he plays with this group, or this boy. Always with a variation of, "My bestest friend EVER in the whole wide world", which changes daily. He still may not know exactly who he's playing with at times, though I've been impressed that he's naming different boys in his class and from last year too. But what matters most is that he's getting joy from social interaction. I dream of him having a best friend someday, but maybe I'm selfishly projecting my wishes on him. He may not need a best friend. For now, at least he's moving towards social. Plus, he's supremely happy. Who can argue with that?

Sensory Rocks! And swings, apparently. This photo says it all: I love that G is casually crossing his legs while swinging high. He's most definitely "got that swing"!
Since he was a baby, G reacted the opposite of others. While I used to take my colicky infant daughter in the car to calm her and put her to sleep, G conversely revved up and cooed. When we go to family outings and drive home late, my teens fall asleep within minutes in the car. G hypes up and chatters us home. No worries about falling asleep at the wheel with G on board. The faster the highway, the more intellectual he gets. "Did you know that...," "What does it mean when..." "How does...", etc. He gets very loud, talks very loud, and sings like a bird. His siblings get quite annoyed in the confined space. Their carpool friends have grown accustomed to it. I love it, and get a large charge out of it. Of course, I have my days when I dream of silence and a Motrin. But we have some of our best discussions and silliest moments on the move.

The most telling moment of the sensory-seeking movement phenomenon was at Cedar Point Amusement Park this summer. G asked, "Mom, can I ride Top Thrill Dragster again? You know, when I go really fast it calms me down." I was floored at his self-awareness! We don't talk about his sensory needs or behaviors, so this was all him, as were his self-soothing swinging stims at recess last year. If only I could drive 120 mph and go straight up and straight down each hour to calm him. I wonder if there are zoning laws in my neighborhood for such a Thrill ride? I'd bet we'd have a line of bestest friends ever in the whole wide world lined up to share in his sensory play.

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