Looking back on those first few years as a Momma, I laugh at how naive I was. I had all these ideas, see, about how life was going to go. I dressed that little girl up in cute, tomboy-ish clothes. We bought princess dolls and soccer balls and pink high-tops. We made friends with other little babies, and us Mommas got together for "playdates". With newborns, guys! Think we were starved for adult interaction?
But slowly our little ones got older and we kept up with the playdates. My Turtle looked forward to them eagerly, and it was just so much fun to have "her little friends" over to play.
There's just something magical about little kid playdates.
And then I had another little girl.
And playdates became less like a dream, and more like a nightmare.
See, when my Firefly came along with her various "issues", all of a sudden, playdates, like everything else in our lives that I had taken for granted, threw us into a whirling tailspin. It was no longer a simple matter of finding a time that would work for both families and possibly refereeing an argument over the proper color of marker to use to color the sky. Playdates now became events that I looked forward to about as much as crossing a minefield--with much of the same anxiety.
Why? Here are just a few things that can look innocent to the uneducated eye, but deadly to the "have-to-look-at-everything-through-sensory-processing-lenses" eye:
1. A change in schedule. My kiddo is very, very routine-oriented. Just the act of mixing things up--even though it is for a fun, exciting thing--can set her off. She's slightly better about that now, but when she was five or so (one of the prime ages for playdates, I've found), it was horrid. Horrid.
2. Anticipation. Waiting is hard. Really, really, excruciatingly hard. And in order to prepare Firefly for the change in routine, we had to warn her. And tell her about the playdate that was going to happen. And then she had to wait. Not fun. At all.
3. Less-than-reliable friends. Now, let me go on record and say that I am not the most reliable person when making plans. Some of that I will blame on the fact that I have the child that I have, and so sometimes we are forced to back out of things because of discipline or overload. Sometimes I just change my mind.
We have been involved with friends in the past who habitually made plans with us, only to drop out at the last minute. Over and over and over again.
And when we have to emotionally prepare for a change in our routine, and then deal with the emotional stress of the anticipation, only to have yet another change thrown at us at the very last minute? Well, let's just say the words "train wreck".
Spending a few hours picking up the pieces doesn't make for a very happy Momma.
4. Finding the right friend. When Firefly feels anxious, she tends to get really, really bossy. She likes to make sure she can control everything in her environment so that nothing will come at her that she can't handle. In other words, she's not a very good friend.
Some of her friends are OK with this. Others, not so much. And finding the right mix is essential, since we are all already pretty much exhausted by the time the playdate actually happens. Truthfully, there's not a lot of free energy left that I can draw on to make the playdate pass smoothly if feelings get hurt.
5. Aftermath. Ugh. Seems like, the longer the playdate, the more aftermath we have. But even short spurts of friends can bring on bossy, anxious, overloaded Firefly. And she's not a whole lot of fun to be around. And sometimes she sticks around for way longer than the playdate actually lasted.
Yeah. Sign me up for another one of those. Like, tomorrow.
And where's the wine?
Raising kiddos is hard. And I know I've said it before: raising my Firefly has been the hardest thing I've ever done. And there's a little bit of anger that comes out when I take a look at the innocent, fun pieces of childhood that I feel like we get cheated out of. I mean, really--why should it be so hard to have a friend over to play dolls?
How is that fair?
But God never promised us that our life would be easy, and I'm pretty sure that He never mentioned fair to us either. And, truthfully, it's getting better. I mean, I did take a drink of the crazy juice and let Firefly have a sleepover birthday party just last month. And my house is still standing, and it really doesn't matter how much gray hair I have since I color it anyway.
It is what it is. And I cry, and I pray, and God is made perfect in my weakness. And in Firefly's.
"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
And we pick up the pieces, and we try again.
Have you found any of the "typical" childhood rites of passage made more difficult because of your child's struggles? I'd love to hear from you...