Thursday, August 20, 2009

If only I could blame Yoko

The playgroup is slowly drying up. A couple of members recently moved away so their previously-unemployed husbands could take advantage of new career opportunities, and the remaining kids' preschool schedules are making it difficult for us to find a time when more than three of us can get together. It's sad - these ladies have been such an important part of my early mommyhood years, and the kids have grown up together.

It's fascinating to watch the interplay between the children develop. Now that they're all turning four, most of the kids are playing interactively (ok, all the kids except Ryan are playing interactively). And they're pairing off, forming cliques, excluding boys from the clubhouse tent, arguing, choosing who will be their friend and who will not.

Ryan and Grace used to be best friends. When she was 15 months and he was 18 months, they seemed to have some sort of understanding - a true connection that was adorable to watch. Grace was the first friend that Ryan called out for by name. When they would meet at the playground, they would run to hug each other and then run away together, giggling. Grace's mom, Dana, and I became good friends, in part because our kids were so damn cute together.

(Ignore Dana's conversations in those videos - she's always talking while I'm filming.)

Grace is not only neurotypical, she has always been very advanced, linguistically and socially; she's 3 going on 14. Over the last year, the differences between Ryan and Grace have ballooned, to the extent that they rarely interact at playgroup, and Dana and I have drifted apart a little as our worlds become less and less alike.

The other day, Ryan and Grace had the opportunity to play together one-on-one for the first time in many months. Grace asked me if Ryan wanted to play outside; I told her to ask him.

"Ryan, do you want to go outside with me?" she asked.

"Outside!" he agreed.

Dana was doing laundry or something, so I was supervising Ryan, Grace, and her little sister in Dana's backyard. I set them up running races to the tree and back. They both gleefully started running when I said GO, but Grace had the clear advantage, because she was focused on racing to the tree and back, while Ryan was just absently running across the yard, not caring if there was a goal in mind. Then I told them to have a jumping race. Grace dutifully jumped to the tree and jumped back; Ryan ran near the tree, watched Grace jump a little, then ran back.

Then I had to take Ryan inside to use the bathroom (Grace, of course, potty trained herself literally over night and against her mother's wishes), and after that, the playdate kind of fell apart. I'm tempted to say they just didn't have anything in common. Grace loves dress-up; Ryan can't really change his own clothes. Grace loves to talk; Ryan doesn't know how to have a conversation. Grace follows rules; Ryan tries to pull lit candles and ceramic bowls off Dana's kitchen counter.

I said goodbye and brought Ryan to the sprinkler park, alone.

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