Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Being social

When I was little, we lived in Prince Georges' County, and I went to an elementary school there called Tanglewood. I have some very strange memories of Tanglewood, and being little. The school sat slightly off the road to allow for buses to come up in a half-circle drop off. If you went in the front doors, the cafeteria/auditorium/cafeteria was right in front of you, across a hall. The rest of the school lay to the right. The principal's office was right in that front hall; turning right to go down it, the office was on the right. Straight ahead at teh end of the hall was my kindergarten room on the left. My first grade room was down that same hall, to the right; I remember it as directly across from teh kindergarten room, but it may have been closer to the front door. There were also at least two second-grade rooms in that hall. Before reaching it, there was a hall that split off to the left. I remember the school as this sort of L, but there may have been more halls. If we turned down the left hall (instead of going on the the kindergarden and first grade rooms), my second grade room was on the left. The special ed room was on the right along that hall, but it was not the first room. My brother's fourth grade room was also on this hall to the left, further down. The school went through fifth grade, so there must have been more rooms down that hall; I never ventured there. If we return to the gym/auditorium/cafeteria, entering form teh front door, you could walk straight through to an asphalted area that may have once been a parking lot, but no cars were ever there. Beyond that, enclosed to the right by that left-hand hall, was the playground. The swings, a set of monkey bars, and a tether-ball lay straight ahead, bounded beyond by trees. Slight to left beyond the swings was a large playing field for games like soccer, also bounded by trees, like a wood. directly to teh left of the asphalt was another monkey-bars, some trees, a balance beam, and I think there was some other equipment there that I didn't use. Going through this little area to the wood, there was a little path through the wood and down some steps to a lower playground. This included a merry-go-round, swings, and more monkey bars, and a teer-totter, but there was a lot more trees here. It was a special treat to be permitted to go to the lower playground.

When I was little, and going to school, my favorite thing to do- much to the annoyance of the school personnel- was to wander around the edge of the far soccer field, by myself, and pick quaker ladies and little orangy flower that I don't know the name of, and sometimes there were daisies towards the end of the year. By the end of second grade, this occupation was banned (I assume now because I was too far away for them to feel safe, since the other children were all on the equipment). I have some odd, disconnected memories of two little girls- Staphanie and Terry- who were best friends, and decided I was OK to play with, too. I think about those little girls a lot. I never felt actually connected to them- they were a little pair, and I was the permited third wheel- but I never felt they were purposely leaving me out, like almost everyone else did. Stephanie had light hair she kept in double pony-tails, long ones, and sometimes in two braids. Terry was dark, with curly hair she was emmensely proud of. They were both tall like me, which may have been the original attraction. They liked to play house and walk on the balance beam. I liked the beam, too. I could pretend to be graceful, dipping a toe as I walked like the gym teacher was always telling us to do- and I could do it by myself.

I've been thinking about these things a lot lately, especially while observing Joey's play and social skills, and Andy's. Andy has been making friends on the playground. I can do what he does now- just jump in and assume everyone will play or talk- but when I was his age, I wasn't so hot at it. Other children were just that- Other. The disconnection lingers. I watch Joey trying to connect. He doesn't know what to say to other kids. I can't answer them when they speak to him. Given the chance to simply act, he's right in there, but if there is speaking involved- his difference becomes immediately apparent, and he is locked out. My problem was that I simply didn't relate to what other children found interesting. Joey's gets locked out because he can't bring words into play to express that interest.


mcewen said...

One little boy [dinosaur obsessed] used to leap in front of the child he wanted to connect with and make a pretty good approximation of a T-Rex complete with roaring effects. As an invitation 'to play' it was very wide of the mark and had the opposite effect.
Several years later he is in an entirely different spot.

kristina said...

But he has that interest----that motivation---that is great! We had our second playdate for Charlie last week; it was less structured, and so more difficult for Charlie. We started with both boys on scooters: The other boy was a whiz, doing wheelies and flying off the front porch while Charlie sort of looked and went up and down the driveway slowly. He just could not keep up with the pace at which the other boy was moving, and talking too----just when Charlie was figuring out what the other boy was doing or saying, the other boy was onto the next thing: Charlei has to think before acting, often.

Thanks for sharing the memory!