Friday, October 31, 2008


The boys come pounding up the stairs - five-year-old cousins, three months apart in age. "Where's Bub?" Jake's mother asks.


"Well, could you go ask if he would like a snack?"

Obediently, Jake trots downstairs, returning a moment later. "He said no."


"Bub's E.A. is all excited about these playdates," Ashley remarks. "I said, well, we've gotten together once." She pauses delicately. "I'm just worried because sometimes Jake can be a bit of a jerk. I wouldn't want Bub to count on this as part of his routine."


"Remember, there are three of you today," Ashley tells Jake and his cousin as they disappear downstairs, hockey sticks in hand. "Three boys. That means three get to play."


Pie pulls on my hand, tugging me downstairs to help her get an out-of-reach toy. The boys are playing hockey. An older cousin is the goaltender; Jake and Kevin are passing the puck back and forth, angling for their best shot.

"You missed!" Bub shouts gleefully, pouncing on a puck that shot just wide of the net. He's having fun. He doesn't notice that he's the only one without a stick, playing by rules of his own devising.


It's time to leave and Bub is hiding behind the couch, emerging only when a return visit is promised. Next week - same time, same place. Jack and Kevin are back downstairs already, having delivered their obligatory goodbyes.

"Thanks for having us," I say as we climb in the car. Ashley helps buckle Bub in.

"Anytime," she replies, heartily enough that it takes several blocks before I realize that I can't breathe.


Anonymous said...

Well, we can't wait until tomorrow for all the fun we're going to have with Bub :)


Mouse said...

This brings tears to my eyes, because I know it so well. I'm frustrated and even a little angry that we're being told Scooter is too social to be truly autistic. But the evaluators took his word at who he listed as friends--even though he was clearly listing the other boys who sit at his table at school. And I can see how he's just not aware of the social hierarchy that's already formed.

We have found one boy with whom Scooter has excellent playdates, but unfortunately he goes to a different school, so they don't see each other very often. Here's hoping you can find a similarly compatible companion for Bub.

Anonymous said...

Wait just one old is Bud? Four, right?

At four my oldest was happily playing a game with other kids that he called,"Tap", ok it was Tag but he didn't get it and didn't get that he didn't get it and he was perfectly happy.

The other kid had his cousin and was on his own turf...can't be compared.

Hang in there, he's fine!!!

(Your) Anon

Omaha Mama said...


Did you ever think you'd be here? Sounds like bliss.

Bon said...

so much here that i have no simple comment to wrap it up with...but as we begin to negotiate the weird territory of playdates ourselves, i shiver and wonder, and thank you for being honest, Bea.

Patois said...

My memories of play dates at others' homes always include me not remembering to breathe. Funny, I have to remind myself to do so at home as well when we're hosting.

Mimi said...

Got a playdate coming up tomorrow. As Munchkin ages into sociability I get more and more anxious on her behalf, and on my own: what kind of mother does she need me to be? A sympathizer? A butt-inski? Heartily cheerful and staying out of it? I don't know ...


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I don't get it. Do you think Bub was being weird? or are you commenting on how the Pie was completely left out? or is this about you?

Bea said...

Jennifer - As it turns out, this post is way more cryptic than I thought it was. Basically, I felt I was seeing signs that Jake is not all that into Bub. His mom was kind of warning me off - alluding to her son being "dumb" sometimes, worrying that he would hurt Bub's feelings. Why would she bring that up unless she was getting some resistance from Jake to our playdates? And then all the instructions to Jake to be nice to Bub and include him - again, just drawing attention to the fact that Jake didn't really want to include Bub unless forced to by his mother. And there was Bub, happy as a clam, so innocently unaware.

Christina said...

I've had more than one playdate where a mom has to order her kid to be nice to Cordy and include her in play. I felt bad that the other kid was being forced to play with my kid, when he clearly didn't think she was someone he wanted to be around.

Her preschool teacher tells me that she plays well at school, but "well" doesn't mean she's very social. I volunteer one day a week now, and I noticed that while she does interact with the other kids a little, she still prefers to stay on the periphery of the group, and doesn't follow the rules of their games.

I can understand that uncomfortable feeling, while your child is completely unaware. (And you almost hope they never learn to understand the hurt caused by social snubs.) It's frustrating.

Omaha Mama said...

This makes sense now (with your follow up comment). Here I thought you couldn't breathe because your son was suddenly busy and socializing and wanting to go, go, go. Not so much with the bliss.
That's okay. I think it's important that he wants to be there. Maybe if you have one at your house, on his turf?

MaggieO said...

Well, if anyone is a little socially inept I'd say it's the mom with her "wouldn't want Bub to count on this as part of his routine" comment. If she thinks the playdates aren't working out she should just say so instead of saying weird stuff like that. This sounds like a totally normal kindergarten interaction (two boys who already know each other ignoring a third). If it isn't bothering Bub, then why not just leave them alone and let them figure it out? I bet after a couple more times they would include him somewhat more. If I were you, I would be really upset by that encounter, too, and I think she's making it way worse than it is.

Bea said...

OM - It's true - this is a huge change in Bub. He is interested in other kids and loves playdates now, where a year ago he would've just been busy with his own toys. I found your comment instructive - what I'm reacting to is subtle enough that even when I pulled all the little pinpricks together, it still wasn't obvious to most readers that I was even upset, which suggests that maybe the evidence of social rejection here is inconclusive at best.

Maggieo - She did it very well - I didn't feel at all upset by her comment at the time, partly because I had been wondering if I should work something like this into the conversation myself - an acknowledgment that these playdates are more an opportunity for us to have coffee than a matchmaking project for our kids to become BFFs. It wasn't until I drove away that I realized why my hands had been shaking, and that's mostly because I think there must have been some kind of back story there, some sign of rejection or resistance from Jake. (And maybe I'm completely wrong about that.)

MamaDrama said...

I got your frustration/fear loud and clear. Although I've had times where my almost 6 yr old protests mightily before a playdate and then is just fine. Sometimes I think it's more of a control thing. But I see where your worry lives. It seems Ashley is a little worried herself--she doesn't really get Bub and so her idea of how 5 yr olds act is based on her son. Playdates are just a lot of emotional work.

MaggieO said...

Well, you obviously had a much more mature, healthy response than I would have. :) I see how my reaction jumped straight to her rejecting you...clearly I'm going to have some issues to work through when my son gets old enough for these playdates!

Anonymous said...

So many posts about playdates and so much anxiety over and over!!! These pangs we feel at the playdates are OUR pangs - not our kids'. The parents need to stay out of it - the kids will either like each other or not.

They may have had a fantastic playdate or 15 fantastic playdates and then one day never want to play again. Then comes the heartwrenching day when they start full-day school and you can no longer hover and hover, and watch and intervene, and control, and fret and worry. I have really tried hard to give up the worrying and fretting - it is life-shortening and purposeless. It is totally and completely liberating to let go of it.

Just make sure the kids can get together if they want and let them play. If this child doesn't want to play with Bub again, then find another. Eventually, he will find a friend. But your anxiety is exhausting!!! Won't it make finding a friend so much harder for him? Can't he feel it? I know its hard, I have so been there but just let it go - he is oblivious to the pangs right now so these playdates are just bliss for him. Let it be for you too!!!

The fact that Bub can walk away from the playdate and say he had fun playing with friends.....mission accomplished!

jenn said...

Kids that young are so much fun.

wheelsonthebus said...

I disagree with the anonymous comment just above. My son feels great hurt when there are social nuances he cannot navigate, and I feel just as you did. I have to remind myself time and again that his hurt will help him learn the social game.

Anonymous said...

Wheels on the bus - the whole point of the blog, unless I missed something, was that Bub was not feeling the slightest bit snubbed. Bea was feeling ALL the pangs. My son feels great hurt too from time to time, but I no longer own it. I recognized that my anxiety was impeding him. My job is organizer, cheerleader and occasionally coach/shoulder to cry on, but these hurts are going to happen for the rest of his life. Better to learn now how to deal with it and stop taking every minor issue as some major life altering moment. It is tedium ad nauseaum!!

Bea said...

WotB - Our kids are opposites that way: Bub doesn't feel hurt or embarrassed by slights, and while I am, of course, grateful for that, I'm also aware of all that he is NOT learning because he's so oblivious. Pie still has a kind of protective armour - she doesn't know yet to feel rejected if another child doesn't want to play with her, but in her case I don't panic because I know she'll eventually make her way. With Bub, there are no guarantees - and the fact that he doesn't notice the rejection doesn't mean it doesn't affect him.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My interpretation would have been that the other mother was worried about her son's behavior -- that he's too rough, that he might be mean (perhaps unintentionally), that you might think he's a bully.

I talked to my husband about your previous post, the one about friendships. He said that a parent's job is to model being a good friend. I found that really interesting. No one else said that, did they? ... My hub's parents had their friends around a lot when he was growing up; they went through rough times together & talked about it in front of him. My parents, on the other hand, never had friends about and never discussed them. Is it coincidence that he has a dozen really close friends and I have none?

Sorry for leaving such a terse comment earlier. I got interrupted while writing it & thought I closed my browser w/o submitting it!

Sus said...

It's funny ... I just scanned the other comments and your responses ... but I totally got you. Maybe because I just had a playdate myself this morning during which all the other kids were happily playing and mine (both of them) were clinging to me the entire time. Wouldn't even go upstairs to play without me. Sitting on my lap the whole time. These social strains are so hard, and you're right: the kids are oblivious, for now, at least. It's we moms who are pained at the slightest indication of exclusion.