read all about it

***

I thought the post was writing itself. I saw the headline as if it were the lead story on an old time newspaper. The paperboys would cry out on every corner,

“BEST PLAY DATE EVER! READ ALL ABOUT IT!

THAT’S RIGHT – BEST PLAY DATE EVER!

FRONT PAGE STORY!”

I mean honestly, I was sure of it.

S was all kinds of excited to ride home in the convertible, so we’d already scored. Brooke seemed to be pushing past the cloud of anxiety that had descended on her just before pick-up time. Everything at home was teed up and ready to go.

I’d spent nearly an hour in the Arts and Crafts store – much of it staring at, agonizing over, analyzing and re-analyzing the best possible combination of fuse beads and pattern plates. Fuse beads are their favorite activity together, I’d been told. Brooke LOVES them. Heaven knows enough fuse-beaded animals have come home with Brooke to have proved the point many times over. So fuse beads it was. Eight differently shaped plates were set out on the kitchen counter for them to choose from – a horse, a butterfly, a girl, a flower, you get the idea – along with a bucket containing two thousand beads of various colors.

I’d added in a second project as a back-up. On deck we had Model Magic pendants to design and cords to turn them into necklaces. I won’t bother to get into my turmoil at the store when I realized that I really have no idea what second graders are into. All of Brooke’s favorite characters come from the old Noggin, which billed itself as ‘preschool on TV’. I knew that her favorites would have long since been outgrown by S, but it seemed that every project that might be accessible to Brooke had some kind of character theme. So what’s cool – or if not cool than at least socially acceptable – to seven year-old girls these days? Cinderella? Fairy princesses? Hannah Montana? I finally gave up and found the only thing in the store that was character-less.

The snacks were ready. Despite the fact that our house is stocked to the gills, I’d stopped off in search of BEST PLAY DATE EVER! snacks. Awaiting our arrival were Brownie Bites and not really but sort of home-made chocolate chip cookies.

And the ride home was magical. I mean it.

Honestly.

Magical.

So can you blame me for hearing the strains of the paperboy hawking his wares?

Brooke was fading at first. It was to be expected. Camp is a long day of keeping herself together. It takes its toll, and the car ride home is usually purposefully quiet. But if there’s one thing I know my girl loves, it’s a chance to tell her series of jokes. So as the mistress of ceremonies (or at the very least the driver), I asked S if she had any favorite jokes.

“Ooh, I do!” she said happily. “Hey, Brooke, why did the cow cross the road?”

I loved, loved, loved the fact that she addressed the question to Brooke and not to me.

Brooke yelled her response.

“To go to the moooooooovies!”

I cringed. Brooke had stolen her punch line.

“That’s a good one, S!” I said, moving right along. “Brooke, can you tell her one of your favorites? Does she know the one about the bees?”

Brooke started right in.

“What do bees take to school?”

S answered her with a sing-song, “The school buzz!!”

S had stolen her punch line! No one cared! This just kept getting better. They were both laughing.

Brooke kept going. She has a script of jokes that came from a Hoops and Yoyo talking birthday card that Julie gave Katie last year. We hear it at least three times a day, often far, far more.

Knock-knock

Who’s there?

Boo

Boo who?

Aw, what’s the matter? You need a tissue?

Knock knock?

Who’s there?

Dwayne

Dwayne who?

Dwayne the bath tub, gettin all swoonie. (Yes it’s supposed to be ‘pruny’, but she heard it as swoonie and nothing can convince her otherwise – more of that to come.)

Hey, what do cows work for?

What?

Moooooooolah!

Moooooooolah, I get it.

That’s it, I’m out of jokes, excuse me of cereal. (The ‘real’ line is ‘that’s my A material’ but she couldn’t care less.)

I cringed just a little. Had S already heard this run? If so, how many times?

But as soon as Brooke got to the last line, S joined in.

SHE JOINED IN.

I nearly busted at the seams as TOGETHER, two little voices said, ‘Excuse me of cereal,’ and then dissolved into giggles. My smile must have wrapped three times around my head. S said, “Brooke ALWAYS says that!” She was still laughing as they launched into it together again. “Excuse me of cereal!” She added, “She’s funny.”

And you know what? Maybe I’ll just end the story right there. Maybe we’ll just stick to the kid on the corner shouting, “BEST PLAY DATE EVER!” and go with it. I mean, the rest of it wasn’t bad, after all; it just wasn’t easy.

It was more like completely exhausting.

The fuse beads were a great idea until they weren’t. Brooke put four beads – yes FOUR beads – on her horse-shaped plate and then decided she was done. S, however was determined to finish the butterfly that she’d started. Which, you know kind of makes sense because the whole point was to actually make something.

Before I realized that Brooke had lost the thread, I’d walked into the next room, trying hard not to hover. ‘These kids play together every single day,’ I thought, ‘so give them some room to play’. Room to play was room for Brooke to wander off and leave S alone at the table. Apparently she hadn’t gotten the memo that S was there to see HER and she’d decided to go play alone in her room.

I’d wrangled her back with the promise of a second snack and a different activity. While S diligently worked on her fuse beads (you know, the activity that Brooke LOVES), Brooke did everything in her power to escape. She went to the bathroom. TWICE. She wandered upstairs. THREE TIMES. She asked if she could play computer. SEVENTEEN TIMES. Finally little S said, ‘It’s all right. You can just let her go.” And I did. Because S was hell-bent on finishing what I had now come to think of as her &^%& butterfly, and keeping Brooke at the table was no longer fun for anyone involved. So I sat with S, picking through TWO THOUSAND fuse beads to find her the EXACT colors that she wanted – not THAT shade of green, THIS shade of green – and oh my God, there are eight shades of green in here and three of them look EXACTLY the &*%$ing same!

Good times.

Katie had come home somewhere in the middle of all of this with Luau. She’d grabbed a plate of her own and was beading quietly at the end of the table. As S and I worked, I said, “Hey, Katie, S has some great jokes!”

S was happy to share them. And then to tell Katie how funny it is that Brooke has her jokes that she tells and how she likes to say, “Excuse me of cereal.” She giggled as she said it and I nearly hugged her.

Katie was suddenly too cool for school. She nearly hissed as she said, “It’s NOT ‘excuse me of cereal,’ it’s ‘That’s my A material.’ That’s from MY birthday card.’

I took a deep breath, trying to contain my anger. Or hurt. or embarrassment. Just trying to contain. I shook my head slowly at Katie. On some level, she understood because she stopped talking. I tried to smile as S handed back the ‘wrong’ green beads. Oops, sorry, S. Did I pick the wrong &*%$ing green again? Silly me!

The rest was, well … it was. Brooke wandered off a lot more than she didn’t, but S didn’t seem to mind much. There was one set of tears. Katie set up a ‘don’t touch the ground course’ in the basement, which had us end on a high enough note that everyone was begging for more time when S’s mom came to pick her up. We promised another play date next week and S asked if Brooke could come to their house.

I was grateful for the invitation and we’ll be there next week with bells on. I’m just hoping that a week is enough time to recover before we do it all over again. Cause, um, honestly? I’m tired.

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22 thoughts on “read all about it

  1. OOF. I feel your exhaustion. But, on the bright side? PLAY DATE! And an understanding and accepting S. What’s not to love about THAT? But, yes, exhausting.

    I wonder if Katie thought S was mocking Brooke & that’s why she jumped on her to correct her? Curious.

    • you know, i wish i could say that was the case, but this was definitely a situation in which katie was simply a typical sibling who was embarrassed by and fed up with her little sister.

      that particular script drives her crazy and she constantly tries to ‘correct’ brooke when she runs through it.

      i think it stung more than it should have because it was so meaningful to me that S was not only not annoyed by brooke’s scripting, but actually got a kick out of it and that had been the source of such joy in the car.

      and yes, a play date. and a great kid. and a mom who asked a couple of questions and then essentially shrugged when i explained our situation. (she had not actually met brooke yet). so yes, all good on that end. it just seems there’s some work to do on our side, but hey, that’s what we do, right?

    • are you sure that after reading this post still want my advice? lol

      i would absolutely, positively tell the other mom beforehand!

      trying to explain your little one’s (possibly unexpected) reactions or quirky or challenging behaviors as they occur can be nearly impossibly stressful. but having laid the groundwork, she’s likely to be much more understanding.

      it also gives you the chance to talk to her about what she plans to do or have available for the kids to ensure that there’s something that your little one can participate in comfortably.

      also, in my experience, the thing that my kid needs most is to know what to expect. we usually hone in on one or two things that we know are going to happen in order to ease the anxiety of the unknown. so instead of getting anxious, she can get excited about an activity.

      good luck!

  2. God, I was exhausted by the end of this! Nobody actually tells you that playdates are more tiring than getting down on the floor alone with your own child, and when you throw a disability into the mix, it is compounded a million times! Sometimes I sit there in my head and say to myself, “who am I doing this for again?” You captured it perfectly. Hang in there for the next one!

  3. I &%$*)#@*%^!!! HATE playdates. HATE them. I wonder over and over whether, on a practical level, they really do any good. I have to hover, I have to protect, I have to facilitate, I have to jump in. It’s SO exhausting. It’s more exhausting than any other job I do. And in the end, I have to wonder if the playdate has caused more harm than good. Does the other child think the boys act like babies (because we, too, are stuck in the preK years)? Was I too edgy by the end of the playdate, making me an unfun mom?

    It’s too much. I admire you for even going there, love. It’s way more than I have in me at the moment.

    xo

  4. Yes, Pixie. YES. I HATE PLAYDATES too.

    Jeebus, Mom…this post is exhausting. And perfect. I think we’re all sitting here on your sofa, passing around the cheese puffs nodding in agreement. We’ve all been there.

    Your determination and grit to the end? God bless ya. Seriously.

    Oh, and lil’ ol’ S? Dip that one in gold.

  5. I must admit that I, too, am in the playdate-hating camp. My hat is off to you for making them a priority, because they are so important for social development. S sounds like such a sweet girl – I hope next week’s playdate goes well, too!

  6. wow. you just keep amazing me. sounds like it was a ton of work and energy…and good and stressful.
    hope there was a glass of wine after the playdate was over!

  7. Not a playdate fan either. They usually exhaust me beyond reason.

    In fact we’re in the midst of one as I type (my 2 boys plus 2 more) that I thought was going (relatively) fine until I heard “E, why are your pants off?” Never a good sign.

    Enjoy your recovery week :)

  8. I am so on your sofa eating tons of cheese puffs. When my kiddo is done, my kiddo is done… and it is exhausting for mama to keep the playdate going for the playmate. So, how do you deal with wandering Brooke at other people’s houses during playdates? While I feel badly when it happens in my house, it seems even harder when my kiddo has plopped himself on the couch in the living room at someone else’s home when the playmate he is there to see is still playing downstairs in the playroom and calling for him to join in.

  9. We’ve got a playdate coming up next week. Expectations are low.

    Your playdate sounded reasonably good, if exhausting! I gotta say, I’m glad to hear that Katie isn’t always the perfectly behaved sister, because Rose surely isn’t over here! (Though it sounds as if Katie made up for the A material with the obstacle course.)

    Hope your playdate next week is headline-worthy!

  10. So, I don’t know how many play dates that I have had over the years. Yes, MY playdates….not his. I worked so very hard to make it “perfect”. I run the emotional rollercoaster each and every time. Why is this so hard? Why can’t this be easy and come naturally? Yeah, they’re laughing. Where is my son? Why am I playing with this little boy? BUT, here it comes….this year he had play dates with a real friend. It was natural, it was fun and I didn’t do all the work or planning. I’ll never forget seeing them playing Connect 4 together and laughing or playing hockey together in the backyard. I wasn’t the leader or the captain. They just played! This didn’t just happen once, but over and over again. It was something that I never imagined happening, but it did. Hang in there. Maybe one day, you too, can sit drink coffee (or champagne) and just listen and watch.

  11. Pingback: ‘the chat’ (alternatively titled, why we talk – part one) « a diary of a mom

  12. For those of us who have been there.. you described it perfectly! It can be so exhausting! As they get a little bit older, (my twins with AS just turned ten) it is a little bit easier. By now the ones who would be cruel have distanced themselves, and the ones who want to play know them for who they are. Hang in there. It sounds like it worked out (mostly) wonderfully, and you did a great job!
    ~Catherine

    • thank you, catherine!

      good to hear they get easier, because i so often fear the future, especially as the differences seem to get so much more stark year after year. but your point is very well taken that ‘the ones who would be cruel have distanced themselves, and the ones who want to play know them for who they are.’

      i really appreciate the perspective!

  13. Wow. I am so glad I read this all the way through. I am usually to chicken to invite others over who are not in some way related.

    I was also glad to hear about the older sister. My daughter is a very good teenager, but she simply gets so frustrated with her two aspie brothers. I guess sometimes it’s just good to know that there are others out there who encounter the same frustrations!

  14. my older daughter just had a discusion today about how she needs to be more patient with her brother who has autisim and how she needs to put herself in her little sisters shoes because she gets even more frustarted with her little brother because she is 9 and dont understand how she has to just walk away at times it is so hard to get her to understand that it is easyer to walk away and let him calm himself at times well i probably made no sense but maybe ull understand what im saying till next time good luck and god bless u

  15. Pingback: a much needed laugh – with apologies to texas « a diary of a mom

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