Let him be. Let it be.
Our family was visiting some old friends recently. They are people we only see about three or four times a year, usually for an afternoon (read, not enough time to be truly familiar). While the big kids went out to play and the adults congregated in the living room, Isaac scooted off behind some furniture to play with some seemingly random objects he found in the toy chest, deeply and blissfully absorbed.
After a few minutes, one of my friends looked around, and craning her neck, spotted Isaac. Her nose scrunched up in what looked like consternation. She rose purposefully, making her way to Isaac. “Isaac, how are you? Can I play?,” she asked in that artificial playful tone we sometimes use to engage kids. Not to be distracted, Isaac mewed a familiar “No!” still enraptured by his solitary play. She was insistent, and from where I sat, I could see her trying hard to make order of his special play–What I’ve come to call Isaac’s physics experiments, his careful manipulation and observation of objects, often balls, but sometimes other random-seeming items.(Since my dad was a physicist, I’ve come to believe Isaac got that gene, which I lack, incidentally.)
She continued to attempt to enlist him in one on one contact, meanwhile imposing her notion of what made sense to her with the objects provided. I felt myself growing antsy and defensive…of Isaac and myself. Did she think he was being neglected, playing all alone in a qu iet spot? Did she see his unique form of play as just another pitiful sign of his “limited” Down syndrome world? “Couldn’t she see he wanted to be alone and was happy that way?”
Gee, Isabella, you may be thinking by now, give the mind-reading a break! Well, let me tell ya, they say if you can spot it, ya got it! Isaac just recently turned five, and it probably took me half that time to lovingly accept that how he plays, when he plays, when he engages, how he engages and who he chooses to engage or not as PERFECTLY OK.
Isaac, I’ve come to realize, has much healthier boundaries and self-awareness than I’m likely ever to have. He is unfettered by the social grace indoctrination that burdened me most of my life. “Hug Aunt Franny,” who routinely intrudes on your personal space. “Play with little Johnny,” whom you don’t really like. “Talk to adults when they speak to you…” even when you feel intimidated and unsure of what to say because you’re five years old. Isaac is not unkind. Actually, he is an ambassador of love. But he feels no pressure to socialize artificially and is wiser than most, taking time to himself when he needs it, and actively seeking out playmates when he’d like.
Before you swell in uproar, I am not advocating abandoning good manners, kindness or even teaching a child with special needs how to socialize appropriately. I am not suggesting (ok, maybe kinda) that we ignore expert advice about teaching a child to play with balls, blocks, cars and kids the “right” way. I am just inviting you to consider that maybe, just maybe, the way your special someone does it is totally OK. That maybe our insistence that our kids–any kids–conform to our vision (about good play–or a good education, good job or good time, for that matter) is perhaps at least somewhat misguided and more about our comfort than theirs. And that maybe we could learn a different way.
Let them be. Let it be.
P.S. How about you? I’d really love to hear your insights or experience with this.