Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On friendship & growth

This summer, Blink made a friend.  He has had friends before — kids he clicks with and play well with.  But this was the first all-consuming friendship, with a boy across the street who is almost always available to play. It didn't take long for the difficulties to begin.

It's been so hard to watch, so painful for Blink, so hard for me to accept that not only is Blink sometimes not a "good friend" but even more so, he has absolutely no capacity to handle moments of disagreement and the inevitable moments in which one's friend is not exactly being fair.

As a parent, there is such a temptation to pull back from these excruciating moments, to peg his friend as a mean kid and tell myself Blink is better off without friends who treat him poorly. In my heart, I know it has the potential to be a learning experience. I know that this is going to come up again and again and pretending it is going to go away does a terrible injustice. So of course I try, I try to talk things through with Blink, get him to see me as an ally. I try to process afterwards. I often feel like I'm fumbling around in sumo wrestler body suit, my attempts clumsy and ineffective. But I try. Because that's what I do.

So when I can see I got through to Blink, you can guess how fucking incredible it feels.

The most recent incident had to do with Blink's friend not keeping his promises, which devastated Blink and caused him to scream and cry and scream for 45ish minutes. It really was unfair. The next day in the car, I was telling Blink how if he had simply said calmly, "Well, I'm not going to play with you if you don't keep your promises" and walked away, M would have likely changed his tune tout suite. On Friday, Blink's friend was kind of being a shit and Blink said, "M, M, M, M" trying to get his attention. I had a mama intuition moment and said to him, "Blink, it sounds like there's something you want to say to M." I had to do that like twice, not sure at all what was actually on Blink's mind. But he said, calmly, and firmly, "I'm not going to play with you anymore if you don't keep your promises." There was silent, secret cheering going on behind their backs, let me tell you!

Fast forward to this morning. Blink and I were doing the OT circuit we do before school each morning in the school's OT room. We'd negotiated 50 jumps on the trampoline. Blink did 30 and got off. "I'm doing 30," he said, with a bit of a playfully snotty attitude. I was like, "Oh really? You aren't going to keep your word? Don't you remember how you felt when M didn't keep his promise? It's important to keep your word." And he immediately got up and started walking to the trampoline. He got on it and said, "Well, when I say a number, I subtract 20 automatically so 50 is really 30...." (trying to make a rule that would give him a loophole) and I laughed and shook my head. He gave me 20 more jumps. Not a complaint at all.

Then, as if I wasn't already feeling like a million bucks this morning, my favorite aide at his school pulled me aside to tell me that last week, a boy in Blink's class had lost a toy at recess and was very sad. The next day said boy was absent, but Blink spied the missing toy on the outside of the fence. He apparently very deliberately fished it out with a stick and very excitedly ran to tell the aide. "I found J's toy! I can't wait to tell him that I found it! He's going to be so happy!" The aide told me that this was such a clear indicator of how much progress Blink has made. "A year ago, he would have wanted to keep the toy," she said. "No doubt in my mind." Sniffle.

He still has problems, no doubt (like having to leave gym class for being aggressive 3 times in the last week) but it's so nice to hear about progress. So nice.

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