I have been thinking a lot about Jacob and friendship lately. It’s the one thing I swore I would “fix” this year and just haven’t, in any way shape or form. I recently wrote a post about how Jake’s best and only friend is a stuffed Curious George.
When Jake didn’t care about friends it made me sad, but now that he’s aware, actively seeking friends, wants other kids to play with him? It’s damn near breaking my heart on a daily basis.
I know for a lot of kids on the autism spectrum, it’s often more of a problem for the parents than the kids themselves, but Jacob frequently expresses his desire for friends. It’s just that he has bucketfuls of social desire mismatched with a thimbleful of the social skills necessary to make and keep them. Big sigh. He’s learning, but it’s a glacially slow process and he and I are growing frustrated, impatient.
It’s also not quite 100% true that he never plays with other kids. Jake has yet no friendship with a same age child that has the possibility of becoming long term, but he does from time to time play with the much younger siblings of his twin brother Ethan’s friends.
And these 2 and 3 year-olds love to play with Jacob: a “big kid” who will give them the time of day, unlike their older brothers who disdain them for their “babyness” much the same way Ethan dismisses Jake. So Jacob does have playdates with Caroline, a delightful 3 and 1/2 year old whose play level actually matches Jacob’s at the moment.
The sad thing is, though, that I can’t let him get too attached to her, because I have been warned that within a year, possibly less, her play will become more complex and verbally imaginative, move beyond him. That, certainly by the time she hits 5, enters kindergarten, she will soon learn to judge, will become aware that Jake is “weird,” begin to reject him as a playmate, turn exclusively to her classmates instead.
But for now? It can be magic. But not easy magic, they have to be watched carefully, very carefully. Because Jacob? Completely unaware of how big and strong he is, especially in relation to little three year-olds. And Jake’s play is often physical, his love enthusiastic and dangerously ebullient. His hugs? Could squeeze the stuffing out of someone, unless carefully monitored. So even when happily on a playdate Jake needs (exhausting) intense one-on-one supervision.
And then there is his twin brother, Ethan. I have written about their fractious relationship many times before; in fact, most recently in last month’s HP post. To say that this is not what I had envisioned when told I was carrying twin boys would be an understatement of epic proportions. Some days are worse than others, but some are, occasionally, nearly good.
My Mothers Day gift from my family had been a weekend away from them, so on Sunday I was busy returning from Boston for most of the day. My husband had work to do, so after a morning of male movie bonding (Thor, naturally) our wonderful babysitter Brandi took over.
While Boston was experiencing scattered heavy showers, it was a perfect spring day in New York City, so after a lovely lunch at the local Shake Shack (where they keep a separate fryer for gluten-free fries and make sure the “no bun” burger goes nowhere near gluten, too), she brought them to an outdoor basketball court.
One thing Jacob and Ethan share at this point in their lives is a love of basketball. And on Sunday, they actually proceeded to play together for hours. Without Ethan screaming that Jake wasn’t playing right, without Jake grabbing the ball and running away with it, maniacally laughing.
This was nothing short of a Mothers Day miracle. Brandi, realizing this, texted me about it. I replied: “Take pictures!” Which she did, and e-mailed them to me, see:
So the next time Ethan tells me he never ever enjoys being with his brother, and that they just can’t spend any time together, I have proof that sometimes it works out.
And I came home with hope, lightening my heart. A lovely Mothers Day gift, indeed.
Varda writes about "birth, death and all the messy stuff in the middle" on her blog "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation" She also tweets as @Squashedmom. Varda is proud to be a Hopeful Parent.