Last summer I got together on a regular basis with a friend of mine whose son is five months younger than mine. Both boys were different and quirky and needed social skills, so play dates seemed like a good idea. The boys liked each other, but both kids seemed more fixated on their preferred activity than on playing with one another. Still, the play dates were successful enough that we decided to try it again this summer.
Yesterday was the first of our play dates for the season. We took the kids to the park and the boys ran around for about half an hour before going their separate ways. I did feel bad because my friend's son kept trying to engage my son, but my kid would inevitably wander off. I used to feel terrible about this...why won't my kid play? Why can't he interact with another kid? Why did he have to be rude? Can't he just go along with this for a while? And, the most unsettling thought...what's wrong with him?
Now, I see it through a different lens. My friend's son is a typical kid. He wants to run as fast as he can, to climb the monkey bars, to push sand into a pile. My son wants to sift through rocks until he finds a fossil, to pretend to be augustasaurus babies swimming in the ocean, to make a replica of the Great Pyramids with sand. It's not that he's bad, it's that his interests are so different than his friend's that they have difficulty interacting.
I have difficulty finding things to talk about with some adults I know. Why would it be any different for a kid?
It's a big shift to start seeing my son's behavior as a difference rather than a deficit.