Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Playdate Pickle

For the last three, almost four years, C has been desperate for his peers to interact with him. While all the other babies in town were parallel playing and ignoring each other, C was reaching out trying to find a friend to connect with. He would offer up toys, babble incessantly, and dole out hugs and kisses to every playmate he met. He was always shrugged off or pushed away as the child being pursued looked for his own toy and space, but kept on trying anyway.

As I continually tried to keep C from upsetting the children with whom he played, I would tell myself, "At three this will be great! He will be the king of the playdate!" And for a brief period of time, he was. But for the past several weeks every playdate we have had, whether it be as our house or someone else's, has ended the same way. With C desperately trying to retreat into the lap of any available adult while the other child begs C to play a game with him. After our playdate yesterday I tried to elicit from C what the problem was. He kept telling me that he was a good sharer and that he was letting his friend play with the toys. I tried explaining that part of a playdate was actually playing with his friend, and in response he said sadly, "But I just want to play by myself Mommy."

I'm so unclear on what to do here. Do I just let him retreat into his shell, which seems very reminiscent of my childhood spent on the sidelines watching others play but being too scared to interject myself into their games? Do I keep trying to engage him with his friends when he clearly doesn't want to be engaged? Do I stop our participation in playdates for a while and let him chill out at home and then try again later? If past experience is any indicator there is something behind this change in personality, it's just a matter of figuring out what. Unfortunately, I'm clear out of ideas.

At school today I'm going to ask his teachers if they are noticing the same thing at school. I would doubt it as when I drop him off and pick him up he always seems cheerful and participatory, but then again I only see a minute or two during one of the more chaotic times of the day. Perhaps their response will shed some light on the situation. Or perhaps I will be left to figure this one out on my own. The bottom line is that I just want C to be happy, and right now I don't think he is.