This past weekend, while at a birthday party for another child in their class, the twins played at a park close to their school. They know the park well because the ex or I take them there pretty much every day after class.
Daniel loves the slides, running up the ramp to get to it, and lately the car structure. Over the school year he has become more comfortable playing on the swings and even sitting on them while being pushed. Rachel loves running around, swinging and playing tag or grounders. I hear different rules about grounders, but it seems a lot like tag.
When we leave the playground area, we make a stop by the butterfly garden. The pic at the top of my posts is of a monarch butterfly that was released from the garden in the fall. My oldest participated in a similar ceremony at the same school and is lovely to watch the butterflies fly away and to see the faces of the children as they release them.
The kids know the park well and enjoy playing in it. Both Daniel and Rachel feel comfortable in it and, I believed, had explored it completely, including the pool and splashpad areas.
I am, of course, wrong in my belief that they had explored it completely.
Getting back to the birthday party, it was a bit away from the playground area. Rachel has played tag close to the picnic tables but never Daniel when I have been there.
Closer to this picnic area there are some beautiful evergreens. I can’t tell one tree from the next most of the time, but this tree did have almost bluish needles.
While Rachel played the birthday games with the other kids, Daniel went exploring around these trees. Then he walked under the branches.
Daniel, like almost all asd kids, plays and interacts with things very differently from a good chunk of kids.
Walking into the needles was another of those moments when I cherish the way he sees the world. Walking under and through the branches became his favourite activity of the afternoon. He made it a co-operative play by giving me turns to go through the branches with him.
Yesterday, after the twins’ SK graduation, the school had set up a tent for ice cream close to these trees. Daniel took up the game with the trees again. Over and over again he went through the branches and took turns with me.
In his almost 6 years now, Daniel has developed his ability to play with others slowly. He has struggled with parallel play and collaborative play. I have taken him to camp, watched and participated in therapy sessions as he showed little interest in other people playing with him. We have worked on “Daniel’s turn, Rachel’s turn, Daddy’s turn” since we first learned that strategy.
He still doesn’t say whose turn it is, but he can demonstrate it. To see Daniel expanding where he plays in familiar settings is a really big deal for him and for us. To have Daniel want to take turns with the old man in a game he has just created makes me smile. Yes, there are important developmental issues involved in climbing through these trees for the first time with Daniel, but sometimes it is more important to just smile at how my little boy is growing up and ignoring that autism is his constant companion.