Monday, August 29, 2016

Parenthood: Week 167 – A Friend In Need

“Can you text Angie, so we can play?”

The combination of Ollie’s awareness of technology and the fact that Ollie asked me to set-up a play date reached a new level of cuteness.

Toddler play is often described as parallel. This means that two toddlers will play near each other but not actually play with each other. For example, often when Ollie asks me to play blocks with him, he simply wants me to sit next him and play something as he plays with his blocks.

This has been changing in the past year and we’ve been seeing much more interactive play. At first I started noticing this when we went to the park and Ollie and Angie would chase each other around or wrestle each other. This is really cute to watch. At other times when Ollie has friends around, he will often ignore them and simply do his own thing.

My excitement about Ollie's growing awareness of his friends became frustration and sadness as I realized that because of schedules, I just couldn’t get together a play date for him with Angie last week. Once upon a time, I was enough of a buddy to play with him when we went to the park or a play space but now he was asking for a peer.

I had time with Ollie, so I was going to make the most of it even if I couldn’t get a play date together for him. I took him to the Skokie Exploratorium, a really fun indoor play space.

We got there right as they opened and what I feared happen. Instead of running around, he stayed close to me. I encouraged him to go into this climbing/slide jungle gym and he told me that he had gone in there with Angie. Then Ollie asked me if Angie was going to play with him today. Instead of answering him, I told him to show me how he did the slide and he went and climbed up into a maze of tubes.

From the top of the slide structure, I heard Ollie giggling and then he came down the twisty slide followed by another boy. He was at least six years old, and looked like Ollie, sharing the unique mixture of features that comes from being half-Asian and half-Caucasian. He said “Hey Ollie, let’s do that again,” and Ollie, giggling, followed the boy back up into the structure.

For the next hour, this boy and Ollie played together. The chased each other, built with blocks together and ran around the Exploratorium. A couple times, Ollie came up to me, needing a break or a snack and the boy politely asked me “Is Ollie okay?” He spoke with a clear understanding that Ollie was younger than him and that Ollie sometimes needed me to speak for him, but it didn’t phase him that he was playing with someone so much younger than him.

I’m not sure what connected between Ollie and that boy. Maybe it was the fact that they were both half-Asian and saw part of themselves in each other or maybe it was the fact that they happen to be interested in doing the same activity. What I do know is when they both needed a friend, they were there for each other.

Sometimes I feel sad when Ollie doesn’t want to play with me, but watching Ollie play with that boy, I couldn’t have been happier and more proud.

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