Mae was in one of her talkative, insightful moods yesterday evening. When I picked her up from aftercare for her therapy appointment, Mae told me about a website that she learned of from one of her classmates. She told me that she wants to join and that she will have to check it out to make sure it’s ok for Jay. She listed the criteria for him, top of which was no chatting. It was funny that she gave herself the responsibility of screening a website for her brother.
As her therapy appointment was ending, Dr. M asked, “Is there anything you want me to think about before we meet again?” While I was thinking of an answer and trying to write a check at the same time, Mae responded, “self-discipline.” Huh? It’s so easy to forget this child is 7 years old.
Dr. M said, “Okaaay. . . . What does self-discipline mean to you?” Mae said it means doing the things she’s supposed to do. Check. I believe strongly that Mae knows and understands what’s expected of her and wants to do the right thing. She needs help and she is open to receiving it. That’s more than I can say for a lot of adults I know.
As I was backing out of the parking space outside the therapist’s office, I asked Mae to turn off the overhead lights because they distract me when I look in the mirrors or over my shoulder to change lanes. I said that it’s safer for me to drive with the lights off. She turned them off right away. (The backstory is that she knows I like those lights off; I’d just never explained why in detail.) Mae then began one of her disclaimers — she’s become really good at disclaimers.
“Mommy, I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to get upset. I’m not trying to scold you or be mean or anything.”
She went on to tell me that I should tell my troubles before they upset me. If I tell my troubles right away, then people can help me and I’ll feel better. She had a lot more to say on the subject, but the gist was that instead of feeling annoyed about the lights and snapping that they should be off, I gained her cooperation by explaining what it was about the lights that bothered me.
I get her point. Still, I flip between being grateful that she is articulate and expressive and feeling bothered that she expects instructions with explanations about why. Oh, she could not have been my mother’s child nor my grandmother’s child. Ha’mercy!
Our play date on Sunday was a success. Both the girls I invited showed up and Mae was surprised and thrilled. We moms were 4 with 6 kids between us in an inflatables place that had about 4 birthdays going. Chaotic, but the kids managed to keep up with each other. At one point, I heard Mae tell one friend to stop following her. I pulled her aside and reminded her that having a play date means playing together and being around each other. I told her that if she wants me to continue planning play dates and expects her friends to say yes and invite her back, she’ll have to be kind and play nicely.
We left the play place and, even though I had a hefty to-do list, the other Moms talked me into going to dinner with them. It was my first restaurant experience with a gaggle of kids, and it wasn’t bad.
The play date was a good experience for me in that it increased my confidence that Mae can manage herself with her classmates at least some of the time, and parents from the school see her as a suitable playmate for their kids. I hope it was affirming to Mae that she has friends she can play with outside of school. This is something I can remind her of if she says again in the future that she never has play dates or that her classmates don’t like or want her.
I’m thinking more and more that there is greater value in getting Mae out with other kids than in meeting with a therapist. Being able to monitor her in social situations allows me to give immediate feedback, acknowledging when she’s doing something right and intervening to correct or guide when she’s not. I’ve been emailing another school parent to set up a play date after Christmas. Her daughter, F, is a third-grader that Mae met during summer camp a couple of years ago. They clicked instantly. They are both non-stop talkers with room-filling personalities. Both have spent time with the school guidance counselor working on social skills, and at my request, the guidance counselor passed on my name and number to F’s mom. My hope is that Mae and F can get together regularly, including sometimes with other kids, and then we’ll phase out or cut back to occasionally meeting with Dr. M.
My brownies should be cool by now. I baked a double batch of red velvet brownies for my family’s Christmas Eve celebration next week. I did the same thing last night, and it was a disaster. I will never, ever, ever double the vanilla again. I had to start over tonight. I now understand why people start holiday baking so many weeks in advance. I’ve learned my lesson for good. I’m off to cut and freeze the brownies, and then get a few zzz’s before hitting the office for my last day of work this week. Yippeee!