Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Interactions in the new place

So we are in a new city and a new neighbourhood. The city is not that new actually, its both familiar and new at the same time. We have spent five great pre-Koopa years here, and have great friends here. But the neighbourhood is new, and it seems to be the kind of neighbourhood where you want to get to know people, especially if you have a kid. This is something that I actually really like about this corner of the city, that it doesn't lead your typical North American way of living where every child is secluded in their own private backyard, occasionally going over to carefully pre-scheduled play dates in the next door backyard (in the best case scenario its a backyard, in a typical case scenario its probably a computer screen).

There are apartment buildings here, tons of kids and dogs, lawns and playgrounds. In the evenings, kids bike on the sidewalks and play soccer on the lawns in front of buildings; elderly ladies gather on the benches to discuss latest rumours, compare prices of cherry tomatoes in local grocery stores, and loudly admire kids' artwork on the sidewalk. It's almost like it was when I was a kid, and that's one part of my Soviet childhood that I really cherish. Messy, social, and spontaneous. There is no shortage of playgrounds here, and playgrounds are always full of kids, and everyone seems to know everyone else, especially children. But we don't really know almost anyone yet.

And Koopa is eager to interact with kids. So from the very beginning I taught him that if he wants to meet someone, its perfectly ok to come up to another child and say "Hi, what's your name?" or "Let's play" or "Hey, do you wanna play ball with me?" or something along those lines. Now, I meant that its ok for HIM to do it, but in no way did I plan to be involved in it myself. I mean, I like people, I really do, and I am usually happy and responsive if someone comes up to me and says "Let's play" (or whatever the grown up version of it might be). But coming up to random people on the playground (even if they are just 4 years old) and initiating interactions with them is not quite up my alley. Let's just say that it is just too big of a leap for me in the current stage of my development.

But, of course, knowing Koopa, who was I kidding by hoping I'd be able to stay out of it.

So now every time we come to a playground, Koopa announces "Mama, I want to meet someone!" implying that he needs my help in it. And sometimes, occasionally, very rarely, I'm in the right state of mind to be able to spot a suitable 4-5 year old victim and go ahead and help the two kids start interacting with each other. But 95% of the time I am not. So, negotiations between me and Koopa usually go like this:

KOOPA: Mama, I wanna play with someone!
ME (in an excited and encouraging tone of voice): OK, that's great! How about you go and say hello to that little boy in the sandbox! He looks like he might be your age.
KOOPA: Let's do it together!
ME: Noooo, you have to do it yourself, you're a big and brave boy! And I'll cheer for you from under this tree here.
KOOPA: But I'm feeling shy!
ME (not that excited anymore but pretty frustrated): Well, so am I! (But YOU're the one who wants to play with him, I'm ok just chilling out here in the shade! - I don't actually say this part out loud.)
KOOPA (very helpfully): Let's go together! It'll be easier if we do it together!

Don't know where he got this idea. Is it from the times of his selective mutism when I used to offer him to say things together to make talking easier for him? Which one of us had SM again?

Normally, unless I'm in a really anti-social mood, he manages to convince me to come with him, since I'm usually pretty much swept off my feet by this last argument of his. I mean I can't really say anything to counter it, I invented it after all! But more often than not I just stand there beside him, holding his hand, smiling and pretending to be all supportive while he gathers up all his courage, leans forward, and whispers to the kid in the sandbox: "Let's play!"

And every time I can't get over how brave he is, this boy who, until a couple of months ago, couldn't even talk to people he knew very well, let alone complete strangers!


  1. So happy to read about all the great steps!

  2. "Messy, social, and spontaneous" - my thoughts exactly! Thirld world living had its upsides.