Four is the magic number for 5 year-old playdates. Yes, it’s louder and the toys are more out of control, but there isn’t a whole lot of squabbling. No one feels left out and the boys either play together or go off two and two…no one is left alone.
As the school year ends, I am saying goodbye to the regular rotation of playdates. As a general rule, I love playdates and I actually love hosting them. It lets me clean my apartment. Wasn’t expecting that? Strange as it may seem, I get all my cleaning done while four boys are running around. Cleaning allows me to move freely about virtually invisible. It allows me to be in a room with them and eavesdrop on their conversations. It lets me see my kid in play and listen to the dynamics of the relationships. They are not bothered by the Mommy in the room when she is busy dusting or rearranging. It is marvelous and I learn a ton.
One recent playdate got me thinking about play in general and adoptees at play specifically. Four 5-year-old boys gave me the gift of the perfect example:
T – “Pretend we are brothers and don’t fight!”
I love this one. It reminds me of our natural instinct to come together, to see each other as family, as brothers.
G – “Retreat! Retreat! Do you know what retreat means? It means to go back!”
L – “But this one is going sideways!”
The look on my son’s face afterwards was priceless, utter confusion as to how he could be so misunderstood. Isn’t that so true for us too? I find myself with that same look at times. Utter confusion as to how we can look at each other at such odds and not see we are all seeking acknowledgement.
This summer begins as it always does with a transition. No more school and goodbyes to a beloved teacher. My big boy is usually quiet, calm and reveals little in the way he feels about school. But on this last day of school, he wept. A long hard weep and a venture back to his teacher for one more hug goodbye. Kindergarten goodbye was much smoother. We seem to expect that a five year old will need time to process the end of the year. I am so relieved I remembered to think about setting up a playdates to take their minds off the end of a long hard earned academic year. I have been anticipating the reaction I got all week, wondering when it was going to hit them both that this was an end. Teachers and parents alike have commented on how “out of it” the kids seem as the year closes.
I don’t think too many of us transition gracefully. Looking at how hard we fight against aging is telling. The transition of the end of school, the end of one stage of life and onto a new one is terrifying for the most honest of us. But I have to admit as an adoptee, it can make for an even less graceful moment and for some of us, downright ugly. For me, it conjures up lots of anxious feelings, unsettling feelings and the inhuman desire to predict the future. I am a planner, list maker, checker of boxes. So when people say, the summer is for relaxing, I get a bit panicky. Not surprising, this loosey goosey idea of “freedom” while the kids are at camp has produced quite a few scheduled appointments already filling up my calendar to leave little room for “downtime.” I may complain about not having the time to just read or relax, but I must be honest, to keep in motion no matter how slow, keeps me from being too complacent to worry about the what ifs that I cannot foresee. Transition and control. Seem like complete counterintuitive ideas and yet for many adoptees, myself included, they are the two quintessential themes of our lives. We cannot control the ‘musts’ of transitions, doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.
On my reading list this summer – Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Don’t forget the sunscreen!