A few weeks ago I took both kids to one of Eli’s favorite parks. As I went to a bench with Camille, Eli took off under a play set. There’s a table underneath the play set and he likes to pile up fallen gum tree balls (right). As soon as he walked to the table a boy around the same age dressed in a police uniform told Eli to leave. Eli got upset and came over to me. I told him this is a playground and he can go where ever he wants. He walked back over and the boy, again, told him he had to leave and that he was the police. Another boy holding a nerf gun grabbed Eli by the arm and walked him out from under the play area and walked him towards the sidewalk. Eli started crying and I yelled at the boys to let him go.
Now the boys weren’t just being cruel, to everyone else they were just playing pretend. He was the police and under the play area was where they were patrolling. Keeping out bad guys. However, to Eli, they were being serious. After the boys let him go Eli came over, still crying, and said that the policeman wouldn’t let him play over there and told me how the other boy grabbed him. I explained to Eli that it wasn’t a real policeman and it was only a kid pretending. I told him that the kids were just playing pretend, a game. The look on his face told me he had no idea they were just playing. I said if they try and do that again to just tell them that you are not playing the game and you just want to play by yourself. Eli stood up and started walking away; I asked where he was going and he said “I’m going to tell them that I’m not playing with them.” The boys at this point were long gone. I told him to not worry about it unless they tried to bother him again.
Eli is one of the most imaginative boys I’ve ever met. His whole life is one big imagination land. But for as creative as he is, he didn’t recognize when other kids were doing the same thing. If he’s in on the planning of the game, he is fully on board; but walking into this situation, not knowing what the other kids we’re doing, he was completely lost. He has always been a little slow on picking up on social cues. He doesn’t always recognize when someone is upset or not interested. He often times doesn’t take situations serious and thinks it’s a game (especially when he’s getting in trouble.)
One of my first blogs was about a time we were at a park (actually the same park as this story) and Eli thought he was playing a game with these other boys but they were in fact just running away from him. He didn’t recognize that they didn’t want to play with him until he turned around and they were all gone. That situation broke my heart and it still hurts my heart watching him struggle with other kids.
I do have my reservations about Eli starting general education kindergarten and not being accepted and liked by his class mates. I think he just needs more exposure to other kids to strengthen his social skills. As a military family, we move around a lot. He doesn’t always have other kids to play with, or when he does, we end up moving away from them. He’s in preschool right now with other kids just like him. When that is over I think he might do a few weeks of summer school so he is more than comfortable when he starts kindergarten this fall. Not all of his social interactions are this way. Yesterday we were at a different playground and he played with a pair of siblings just fine. They were all having a blast until the two kids had to go home. When I asked Eli where his friends went, he said they left. Then he started crying and yelling “I DON’T HAVE ANY FRIENDS!!!” lol. He’s a great kid and a lot of fun to be around. I have no doubts that he will be able to make good friends. Maybe we just need a little practice reading people. 😉