first play date

Monday, April 29, 2013

photo by kyrani kanavaros

This was in my inbox last week.

Hi Dave & Tamara,

A little while ago Aurora asked me if she could have a play date with Beckett sometime. We would be very happy to arrange this, if you and Beckett are interested. Aurora is trying to make a few more friends in her class, and when I asked her which kids are the nicest, she mentioned Beckett. I hope that you'll consider arranging something with us.

When I received this e-mail I had to pause and process my feelings. Lisa couldn’t know that by sending this e-mail she was opening up five years of feelings and fears.  Yes, it’s just a simple invitation to play but this is different – it’s the first time a “typical” child has asked my son to do something.  In my world, this is huge.

When Beckett was just days old, I would stay up late with him asleep in my arms, fretting over whether he would have any friends. Would he be bullied? Would other children want to play with him?  When Beckett was a few months old I met someone who worked for the School Board, I shared my fear of high school and they said to me “Kids with Down syndrome can be quite lonely in school – no one wants to be best friends with the kid with Down syndrome”.  Insert knife in heart here. I have never forgotten those words. Ever. When I received Lisa’s e-mail I wanted to cry and I secretly hoped that Aurora would feel the same way about Beckett when they get to high school.

I hadn’t met Aurora yet and I already loved her.  Maybe it was Lisa’s idea, maybe she instinctively knew that children with special needs usually don’t get asked over for play dates?  I don’t care, I instantly adored Lisa for doing this.

We went for the play date yesterday afternoon.  I was over the moon. Beckett was happy but he didn’t understand what we were doing, I tried to explain but it didn’t really have any impact.

Aurora was waiting in the window and when we walked in Lisa explained that she had been excited all week.  Beckett took one look at Aurora’s toys, realized he was in heaven and proceeded to play with every toy and ignore Aurora.  Very disappointing for sweet Aurora. 

My bliss turned to reality once I realized that Beckett didn’t know how to have a play date – I found myself explaining to everyone that he was so excited to see their toys, that’s why he was playing on his own - Beckett would eventually want to play with Aurora (fingers crossed).  It’s challenging because Beckett’s speech is delayed, he can communicate but not as well as a typical five year old. It’s hard for his peers to understand him.

I found myself analyzing the situation, is this play date going sideways because Beckett has Down syndrome or because he’s a boy or both? He was having a good time, a really good time – by himself.

By the end of the date I realized, like most other things, we would need to guide Beckett and get him used to the idea of a play date.  Aurora is now coming over this week to have a play date at our house.  She will meet Beckett’s sisters, I’m sure they’ll get along great.
photo by kyrani kanavaros
I have saved Lisa’s e-mail, I read it daily. Aurora thinks Beckett is one of the nicest kids in her class. That makes me happy. It settles my fears. Aurora is right.