It was only about a week ago that we were walking in the park and Ean saw two slightly older toddlers playing with a ball. He stopped me and pointed towards them. I told him to go play, to go catch the ball but he was just stomping in one spot, as if frustrated. Well, I couldn’t exactly hold his hand and walk up to them, I’ve been wanting him to take those small steps towards interacting with other children and being independent but as much as I nagged him, he didn’t budge.
Finally, one of the kids kicked the ball a bit further away and neither one wanted to go get it, so I told Ean again, go… go… go! Usually that triggers his inner frat boy and it’s the standard way with which we get him to finish his food, drink or to do something he’s hesitating to do.
He started to pace slowly towards the ball, all the while keeping an eye on the other children who were now being busy doing something else. Like a boy shyly shuffling his way towards to ask a girl to dance for the first time, he slowly made his way towards the ball which was lodged in the fence of a fountain.
The boy was very well behaved, didn’t push or do anything harmful, he just stood there with the ball, as if inviting Ean to play.
He stopped about 1 meter away from it, grabbed the fence and was kind of leaning and stretching to try to reach the ball with his foot (which he just needed to take 2 more steps to reach if he really wanted) but it was as if an invisible barrier was keeping him from it, a barrier by means of lacking confidence. I kept encouraging him to take the ball, to bring it to me but to no avail. He gave up and started walking back towards me and as he was doing that, the other kid ran after the ball and took it.
A moment after Ean had reached me, the boy came up to us and stood next to Ean. The boy was very well behaved, didn’t push or do anything harmful, he just stood there with the ball, as if inviting Ean to play.
Ean started to look nervous and looked at me, then at the boy and again at me and slowly started grinning and then crying. I felt so bad for him, not because he was crying but because he simply lacked the instinct or knowledge of how to interact with another child. The boy stood between me and Ean and as soon as Ean realised he couldn’t reach me without passing the boy, he started crying.
It wasn’t a “oh my god I’m going to die”, just a “what am I supposed to do? This is making me sooo uncomfortable”. Either way, I couldn’t just push him towards the other kid, then I might scare him too and then there would be no winner.
Ean is by no means anti-social or introverted but he was simply lacking the skills to approach or interact with another child… until yesterday.
You probably know I’ve been ranting and raving about daycares the past week and because all of last week we had been at the daycare, we didn’t time to visit the playground or the park. Yesterday though, we decided to go out for some fresh air in the afternoon and this happened.
It’s like a completely different person! He spent a solid hour playing with a bunch of different kids around the playground, kicking and throwing that ball around.
I can be the best dad in the world, but without daily exposure to people his own age his social development would be much slower or even ultimately alter his personality due to isolation and inability to connecting with others, not to mention all the things he would learn by copying older kids. Having him starting at daycare is by far one of the most important things I have done for him in his short life