Saturday, August 5, 2017

Autism Answer: The Freedom Of Parallel Play

A Lesson That Lasted - The Story: 

Three of my four sons were enjoying a moment of imaginative play. Toy soldiers, wooden train parts, and various kitchen utensils surrounded them; a world of their creation. 

My fourth son, only months old, snuggled into my chest enjoying a post-feeding coma of contentment. 

Everything in my world was – particularly in that moment- exactly what I’d always wanted. Rather than put my baby down I held on, watched the boys create together and allowed my thoughts a parallel moment of free play. 

“The train broke! The robot escaped!” I heard my oldest son announce to his smitten brothers, breaking into my quiet imaginings with a loud crash of his own. 

Suddenly, and with great force, I was struck by a fear so real my entire body stiffened. 

Tightening my hug on the small body in my arms I bravely allowed the scary thought to present itself: “Children, my children, have their own thoughts, imaginations, and beliefs. My love and lessons can be shared but never forced.”

Sure, I had known this already, but never with such life altering clarity. 

As my boys manipulated their world of toys I teased out this truth and declared a parenting promise to myself. “My job,” I decided, “is to guide them. To be genuinely interested in what they want and who they are. Not to teach or applaud only my version of them.”

My body relaxed, my hug softened, my moment resumed.

To any onlooker, nothing had happened. 

But that moment of parenting aligned me. Who I am (less “leader,” more “helper”) and what I believe (we are all born uniquely capable) became a parenting statement I could put into action. 

I watched my sons play. The game hadn’t changed but my style of interest in it had. Still holding the baby, I joined my boys in their toys and asked them to show me around. 

________________       The End    _____________________

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I encourage you to discover the freedom of parallel play. Of being together with the understanding that we can share each other's plans and pictures and scripts, but that we can never entirely know another person. It's easy to get lost in the mess of wanting our loved ones to think the things we believe they should think, or to invest their time in the pursuits we feel are most necessary, or to behave in the ways we are inclined to consider best. But there is freedom and kindness when we let go of that. Don't let go of guiding, teaching, and learning; but let go of believing that your job isn't done until your children, students, friends, and spouses, see things your way. 

Enjoy and learn and teach and connect and find yourself in the freedom of parallel play!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!