Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second Chances

Last week Number One Son got together with our neighbor boy, who is the same age, to play. They have been playing together quite a bit lately. They get together with some other boys in the area and play war and spy games in the woods in our back yard.

They have not always got along so well. When N1S was about five or six years old, he struggled with peer play and social interaction. Couple that with clumsiness and little natural athleticism, and you can see where he might have trouble making friends. N1S has
Asperger's Syndrome and still has to work at friendships. He has improved greatly, but still needs guidance on occasion.

This neighbor boy that N1S has been playing with lately, wasn't always his friend. Two or three years ago I would have described this boy as aggressive and bullying. He was into sports, guns and playing war. Back then we tried to get the boys together to play a few times. It rarely turned out well. Sometimes N1S would come home crying because of mean things said to him. He was pushed down and got things thrown at him a couple times too. N1S didn't really know how to talk with the boys without sounding weird. Most times he would go off on a tangent and the other boys would not want to bother with him. The play often started OK, then one of the boys would team up with another one and either gang up on N1S or just exclude him. There were many times N1S would come home at 3pm because the boys told him they had to go inside for supper, only to come back out a little later.

That was then, this is now. I mentioned that N1S and his friend have been playing together a lot this summer and fall. I think it has to do with both boys maturing quite a little in the last three years. N1S has also caught up a little bit in coordination. What ever it is, it has made play dates much better. N1S has learned more of the rules of their games and has also learned more of the rules of social interaction. Things still aren't perfect, but they are definitely getting better. We are now more comfortable letting N1S go on his own to find his friends and join them. This is also the first year that those boys have actually come to our house looking for N1S to play. The first time this happened our hearts just about burst out of our chests.

Just last week, N1S was playing outside with his neighbor friend I described above. After a while they both wanted to come inside to play in N1S' s room. They played Lego's a while and we invited his friend to eat supper with us. After supper, sister Sweet Pea wanted to play the board game,
Sorry. She set out the game on the living room floor and we all played. Lady Di & Dad were a team against Sweet Pea, N1S and his friend. And the kids were truly playing against us. Three years ago, I would've thought that playing a board game would have been uncool to N1S's friend. But he had the most fun of all of us. I was proud of all of the kids. The game of Sorry offers a lot of chances for throwing fits of bad sportsmanship. No one threw a fit except Lady Di, when she was sent home for the tenth time while the little trio sang, "Soooooorrrrrry!".

After the game, it was time to go home. N1S said good bye to his friend. His friend said, See ya later, N1S." Just hearing a kid say that to N1S and mean it, gave me a warm feeling inside.

I think N1S earned a few points with his friend that day. N1S's friend also moved up a few points in my book. What kids do when they are young, does not necessarily mean that is who they are. It's easy to hold grudges, especially when someone wrongs your child. But kids, and adults as well, deserve second chances. Denying this will just limit everyone's friendships to a few. Everyone makes mistakes. Maybe, sometimes, kids don't have to actually apologize to say they are sorry. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Maybe this was Sweet Pea's clever way of getting that apology for her brother.


Above Average Joe said...

Even though we live in a busy neighborhood, there arent many kids the same age as The Champ. I'll be looking forward to seeing him play in the backyard with another kid.
Sorry is big in our house right now. I think The Champ has won like 15 out of 20 against me.

DJ Kirkby said...

Great post!

simplicity said...

LB, This post was wonderful, and so very true. Isn't it amazing how kids grow, mature and change over time into something even more wonderful than before? Isn't it amazing that a childs ability to forgive is so sincere, honest and thoughtless that it puts adults to shame? I'm so glad that E and this neighborhood friend have finally hit it off and are able to be on level playing field and be friends.

I think that my words are sloppy as I write this but wanted you to know that this post was really good and is good to show that kids (just like adults) change. And both you and E's ability to let go of any ill feelings/memories of past experience with this child, and just let it go, let them have fun and let them develop whatever kind of relationship they can.

All that to say, thanks for a good post.

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.