Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dinsoaur Bones

I'm outside in the garden, and Anna and Ethan are over on the swing set.

"Ethan, let's play digging for dinosaur bones," I hear Anna say.

"I don't want to do that," he replies.

"But why?" No answer.

"But why, Ethan?" Still no answer.

I sigh. "Ethan, your sister is asking you something," I say.

"Why, Ethan?"

"There are no dinosaur bones in this backyard!" he replies.

"How do you know that?" Anna asks.

"There aren't!" he yells.

"Boo, hoo, hoo," Anna rubs her eyes and does a rather convincing fake cry. "Ethan won't play my game."

Variations of this conversation have played out between them about 642 times. Here we go again, I think. It's the playground all over again.

Again, I stand still, wondering so many things.

I wonder how upset Anna truly is...if the fake tears are truly just a ploy or if she's bothered by Ethan's lack of enthusiasm. I wonder if it's right to manipulate Ethan into playing a game. I wonder how much of this is just a sibling spat vs. Ethan not wanting to be flexible vs. him not knowing how to play the game and responding by acting contrary.

Anna runs inside for a moment and I go over to him, deciding to have a little chat in case he's feeling anxiety over not knowing what "digging for dinosaur bones" really entails.

"Ethan, do you know how to play 'dinosaur bones?'" I ask.

"How?" As usual, as I suspected, he's about three steps behind in most of these typical kid pretend play games.

I think of a simple way to describe this; the basics. "You dig in the dirt with a shovel, and you see anything that might look like a bone, because if you found dinosaur bones you could send them to a museum and get a million dollars!"


"Because they're very rare," I answer, wondering if he knows what that means.

"Mamma, there are no dinosaur bones in this yard!" Ethan is completely bewildered as to why this would be a fun game. Duh mom, get with it, his tone tells me. I have to smile at his completely literal view of the world.

"But it's fun to pretend there are," I say more to myself, feeling deflated. For Ethan, perhaps not. He was having a perfectly good time trying to unearth a giant root from the dirt under the swings.

Anna, never one to be deterred easily, comes outside with a "kit" she's put together, including a paintbrush to brush the dirt off any "bones" and string to link them together. I find Ethan a trowel.

"Okay, let's start digging!" Anna announces, as I walk back over to the garden. I wonder if I will make it back to the garden before Ethan quits this game. I wonder if Anna wonders why Ethan's little friends play with her so readily and eagerly while her brother often will not.

I wonder about sibling support groups out there for Anna and if they really apply. Never mind the fact that she's already staunchly announced she has no interest in attending one. It's one thing for a child to be able to express, "My big brother doesn't know how to talk and can't talk to me," or "my sister tantrums for three hours if she doesn't get to eat pretzels." It's another to say, "My brother won't play my games."

Almost any kid could say that. These things are so darned subtle.

I wonder again how fair it is to make Ethan play games he doesn't want to play, when he was perfectly happy pulling at a tree root, focused on his thing, humming his own little songs.

And as I'm wondering, I see and hear that Anna has asked Ethan to look for bones, and Ethan is digging. Anna is digging. Ethan finds something and shows it to her. She comes over to me with something that may or may not be fossil-like. I "ooh" and "ahh." Anna inspects Ethan's dirt and finds a few other possibilities. Ethan is digging and content. Sister is too. This lasts for 10 minutes, also known as a very long time in Ethan/Anna playtime that doesn't involve wrestling.

Then it's time to go in, anyway. The sun is setting. Everyone's cheerfully dirty. And all of these questions can rest until they inevitably rise to the surface on another day.

1 comment:

Floortime Lite Mama said...

love this post
I think one of the joys of blogging is that we get to truly reflect about our kids
Getting to see a typically developing child and a child whith autism probably gives you a special perspective