Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Play and Work

Sometimes I know I'm overthinking things...life in general, and my approach to Ethan. I am a thinker, and I can drive myself crazy plotting and planning, but other times, being this way is tremendously beneficial. My son needs a thinker mom. Especially right now, in order to best help him be all he can be.

Take this whole play thing again. Or play dates. We will get to the point I know when I will bring Ethan somewhere and we'll have an honest to goodness playdate that includes me (joy!) getting to talk with the mom and let the kids do their thing. It ain't happening right now. This is what I probably need to explain to people, so they don't think I'm just being avoidant. It's not that I can't hang out with people, it's that I'll either be completely ignoring Ethan and he will most likely (but not necessarily) getting no benefit from the playdate, or I will ignore my friend to completely get him to interact.

Play takes so much thought sometimes with him, but it is so worth it. The mall play areas, for example. I don't take him to Buckland right now because he gets too distracted by the elevator. Enfield is smaller and less distracting, although there is this annoying loud TV blaring ads right nearby. Today I took him and observed, as I always do. I can meet friends here (and have before) but if I do, there are lost opportunities. This morning, for example, Ethan was in as about a social mood as he gets with kids who are strangers. How could I tell? Normally he will go spin the circle toy for about 15 minutes in the back area where he can kind of hide. Today he was right out there where the kids were, climbing through the log tunnel and going on the slide. He was giving kids lots of great eye contact, and there was this one little boy who I could just tell Ethan liked. Ethan was watching him to see if he'd come back and go on the slide with him. This may not seem like a big deal, but was most certainly a big deal. I could see that he was wanting to play with kids, or at least be in the presence of other kids. He just didn't quite know what to do.

SO, he spent a lot of time playing a game with me called "let's run out of the play area a million times and make mommy chase me." He'd do that, but then go back and look for his friend. With urging from me, he'd hang out in the boat or sit in the toy car for a few minutes. He didn't stick to one toy, hiding, but wanted to be out with others...yet I can guarantee if I was gabbing with a friend, he would've spent the entire time running out of there, just trying to get my attention. I can really see on days like this how he will benefit from being in a preschool setting next year.

He's been having a blast with the tunnel at home, playing with Anna. We are teaching him to look at her, get her attention (hopefully to start calling her "Anna! Tunnel!") and I just love the huge grin on his face when she agrees to play. At times like that he seems nothing like a child with autism. But yesterday, for example, Anna didn't want to play. And I can't make her. But this time I gently bribed her with some Trident gum, because he was sooo eager, doing everything he could to get her attention, and the thought of a missed opportunity just really bothered me, and Jessica too (who was there for his new Monday afternoon appointment). I am very vigilant though, about not making Anna do too much. I know that story well. I can't bear to put that responsibility on my little girl.

Sometimes it gets exhausting, continuing to push, push, push him. Yet he longs to be pushed. He had an appointment with someone filling in last week in Glastonbury and I thought she was going to send him over the edge. She was so pushy (annoying almost) and demanding. Yet, with some protest, he responded. He did more with her than he had with the woman who's been working with him for 2 months.

Yet there are times when I have to take a break. I know that. I can't be supermom and I can't cure him. I worry about burning out. There are days I wake up and have to fight a weariness that wants to settle over me like a blanket. It's a feeling that says, "Oh this? You have to deal with this again. This is too much work." But it's only too much if I'm trying to do too much, at the wrong time, in my own strength. God's grace truly is sufficient for me. I've just got to learn to keep walking in it.

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