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.


Sandee said...

Hi Tamara,

your post really resonated with me. My 3 yr old son Gavin doesn't have down's, but doesn't really play with other kids still. We will have a play date with other age appropriate kids and my 5 yr old girl will end up playing with the other 3 yr olds and Gavin will play (quite happily) on his own with the new toys. I sometimes am afraid his is too introverted and has no friends of his own, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he is a boy and I'm comparing him to my older daughter who had lots of friends to play with even at a young age.

bethony said...

Hi Tamara....awesome blog entry...may I share on the Family Support Institute facebook page for other families to read. I respect your decision either way.

tamara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tamara said...

Of course you can shre! Thank you.
Tamara xx

Lovin That! said...

Thanks for sharing! I have 2 little ones and find that the play date world does take a bit of getting used to for them. So sweet to see them make their own friends. Keep us posted how the play date number 2 goes!

Diane said...

What a great blog post. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa said...

I just heard from Enid-Raye about your post, and I'm so touched! Aurora and I both had a really good time at our second playdate, and she does seem to understand that Beckett needs more playdate practice. We're looking forward to having him and the girls over this weekend, if everyone's over their colds by then. Don't worry too much about Beckett. Everyone loves him!

Laura H said...

As a teacher, it saddens me to hear what that school district employee shared with you. Of course, it is true- any child can find themselves lonely! Although I love teaching, my true passion while with my students is equipping them to be more loving and caring. ' Do you look at the teacher when you enter the room? Do you notice the girl who looks sad today?' Don't worry, there are plenty more 'Aurora's' out there that will love Beckett. Some will love him naturally, for all his amazing qualities, and some will care for him because they have been taught to be compassionate and to love others.
Keep up the great work. I love reading your thoughts

TOM Orrell said...

This is an absolutely great post. I recently decided to start seriously learning about positive psychology
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Vintage Home said...

Thank you for sharing this Tamara.

Jennifer Wilson said...

Hi Tamara,

I recently discovered your blog and I LOVE IT! I admire your honestly and sincerity and it's so obvious how much you LOVE your kids!

I am blessed to have a sister in law with Down Syndrome, and reading your post made me think back over the course of our relationship. I have known her for over 13 years and watched her graduate highschool, go to her prom, find a job, go on dates, and live life to the fullest! I imagine that her parents had the exact same thoughts, feelings and fears about being accepted and her interaction with others...but as long as I have known her, she has had such amazing support from her peers. She brings joy to everyone she meets and has way more friends than my husband and I combined!
So whether you are worried about Beckett on his first play date, or his first year of middle school, or being accepted by his soccer don't have to! They will love him!

I look forward to reading future posts and watching your both grow as you take one day at a time!

All the best,

kd said...

Hi Tamara,

Thank you for writing this post. I have a 6 year old son in grade 1 who has many challenges including language delay, developmental delay, ADHD due to a rare genetic disorder called Creatine Transporter Deficiency. I am sad to report that this year we only had one play date and we were only invited to one birthday. Even a "friend" of mine whose boys were invited to my kiddos birthday (our kids go to the same school) did not invite my boy. I have to say that broke my heart. However, I also have to say that there are many wonderful kids in the class who embrace my son, they are mostly girls, but they bring joy to my heart. Also, I think parents like me have to be more pro-active in our kids social life, I kind of suck at this due to my own shortcomings, but learning :)
Although it is not about this topic, I've wanted to mention something very troubling I've recently got in the mail. I have received an invitation to participate in a survey by Inclusion BC. Apparently students in BC Schools are sometimes restrained and secluded and the survey hopes to collect data about this trend. Some of the students who reported the abuse sustained physical injuries as well as emotional trauma. Almost the same day I've read that New Westminster School District decided to cut 27 Special Education Assistants in order to balance the budget. This is very troubling.

MykCoBo said...

I just wanted to say that when my daughter entered kindergarten, there was a downs syndrome boy (C) in their class. It is a very small school (one class per grade) and all the kids are like brothers and sisters. They are now finished grade 5 and C is treated as any other student, and participates in absolutely everything. He has an Educational Assistant with him all day, but is loved and SUPPORTED by all his classmates. Recently they had a hip hop instructor come in for a week and teach each class a long choreographed hip hop routine. C was right in there (without his EA) strutting his stuff. It sounds to me like Beckett is already getting the support he needs to grow up along with his classmates. :)

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