Monday, December 5, 2011

Heart on His Sleeve

Michael is at an age where he is beginning to be interested in playing with his peers. I watch him play with his sister, or with a friend during a play date, or even in the play place at the mall or McDonalds. He tries so hard.

He'll carefully set up an activity in his room. Last week it was a picnic. He carried a blanket, pretend food, and play dishes up two flights of stairs from the basement to his bedroom. He spread out the blanket in the middle of the room and laid out a beautiful picnic. Then he excitedly ran down the stairs to invite his sister to play. She wasn't interested. First he invited. Then he wheedled and whined. Finally he broke into tears. I didn't know what to do. I felt for him. I wanted her to want to go. But she didn't. She's still too little. She wanted to be near me. I suppose I could have dropped what I was doing to go upstairs with both of them, but I didn't. I don't remember why.

During a play date a couple of days ago Michael desperately wanted to show his friend one of his birthday presents. Again, he was practically quivering with excitement. It is adorable and he is just so earnest and genuine. And his friend was more interested in playing with something else. And he melted down, again.

At the play place I see him look at the other children and carefully choose someone who looks his age to be his friend. He'll walk over and introduce himself and ask the other child's name. More often than not, the other child simply goes their way. I watch other children successfully bond. Even Ava is beginning to be able to do it. But it doesn't quite work for Michael and I can't quite put my finger on why. He's often on the periphery of the group.

I see this as a budding issue on two levels. First, I wish I could figure out why socializing isn't quite gelling for him. If I could figure that out, perhaps I could subtly redirect him to be more successful. The second level is his sensitivity to rejection. The meltdowns are heartbreaking for him and for me. And they don't help the social situation. Surely the solution isn't to "reject" him at home on purpose when he invites me to do something just so that I can try to help him handle the feeling...

If anyone has any wisdom or resources to share here I'd really appreciate it because I'd love to find a way to help my sensitive little boy and I don't have a lot of ideas.

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