Monday, May 31, 2010

Playing in the world

Playing outside is such a wonderful way to meet the world.
I've always done a lot to stimulate my children to play outside.

When they were small babies I put the pram in the garden, watching it carefully so no cat would jump in. We had loads of cats in the neighbourhood those days.
But because they were not very welcome in my garden, the birds visited us eagerly.
So when my babies were awake they would see the green of the trees, the blue of the sky and hear the sounds of the birds and the wind around them.

As soon as they could I put them on the grass on a blanket, so they would see more.
And at the same age I started the habit of walking around with them. Baby on my arm, cheek to cheek, watching all the new things a garden shows during spring, summer and autumn.
I would name the trees and the flowers and feel happy for those tiny moments of being together.
When the children grew up we took our small walks together after dinner, and sometimes we had a real celebration like rose-day: the first day the roses in the garden showed an open flower.

The children had a lot of fun in the garden playing in the special sand with their toys or in the water at warm summerdays. As we had a lot of small children in the neighbourhood there were always children to play with...
...or beside. As autistic children are not always teamplayers with fantasy.

I tried to get them used to other children as soon as possible, so I could help them to learn to play.

Then the moment would come they suddenly realised there was a world outside the small gate too.
It's interesting that they never escaped from the garden before that moment, even though the gate was small.
They must have felt safe, comfortable and entertained.

The world of the outside gate was a path between the back gardens of the houses. At one side towards another path, at the other side towards s small playground with 3 exits to streets.
We, moms, were grateful for the benches, so we could watch our children and talk a bit. Often we took turns to watch the little ones.

Playing there was a challenge for my autistic children.
One took all the risks available, and needed to be told to grasp a new hold before walking over the moving bridge, another was afraid of heights and needed patience and support to climb the small ladder and stand in the house behind the window, and yet again another needed to be told to stay on the grass, so he wouldn't run towards the street facing the dangers of cars which were not limited in speed then.

For me as a parent it was a constant balancing of giving them responsibility and developmental opportunities, yet guarding them and keeping them safe.
It was great to see them develop self-esteem, confidence and motorskills, along with insight in depth and many other important skills.
They learned give and take while playing football and lots of other games, and I tried to teach them the rules and some flexibility towards those same rules.

When new kids crowded our playground it was the end to a few years of feeling safe and happy there.
They were bullies who discriminated children who were not wearing hats, pulled the girl's hairs, badmouthed everyone who crossed their path and even stole sweets from smaller children and carried playguns with small bullets which were officially forbidden.

We, moms, moved our children to each other's gardens, went to playgrounds at other parts in town, took each other's children swimming or stayed at home watching the babies while sipping our tea and discussing schools.
Winter came, the bullies went away, some of us moved and new parents and children came.

Time moved on, the kids went to school, and the playground was dominated by some boys playing football with one of the dads who had a job nearby and was home early.
Suddenly there were more girls in the neighbourhood. They played on the benches with the dolls, made each other watertea in their playkitchens and had pyamaparties in the afternoon.

My boys were at an age that they had their own group of friends, and one rather stayed at home and didn't like playing outside at all. He hated the wind, didn't like the sun and saw the world outside as part of the way to move from one safe place to another.

But they all kept their interest in nature.
In the ladybirds, the berries that tasted so sweet after they grew in the sun, and the first rose flowering in spring.


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