One of Isabelle’s new friends at preschool — we’ll call her Daria — approached me twice asking for a play date with Isabelle.
“Have your mom e-mail me,” I told her.
“Can you e-mail him?” four year-old Daria asked me.
“Sure,” I said, and added that to the reasons I should also be considered my daughter’s social secretary.
In reality, I e-mailed Daria’s mom and set up a play date at a local museum for this-coming weekend. Last week, Daria approached me at school and asked, “When is my play date with Isabelle?”
“Next weekend,” I told her.
And that was it. It was on the books. Barring anyone getting sick (G-d forbid!) or a snowstorm (Ugh!), we’re on for this weekend.
But then today, when I picked up Isabelle at preschool, Daria approached me.
“Do we still have a play date this weekend?”
“Yes,” I said. “You and Isabelle still have a play date on Saturday.”
“Isabelle isn’t very excited about it,” Daria confided in me.
“Yes she is! She actually asked me to go to the museum with you, which is why we’re meeting there instead of at one of our houses.”
Daria didn’t seem convinced. “She doesn’t seem excited about it.”
I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Isabelle asked to go to the museum with her. Was it that she was indifferent towards a play date with her friend or was it because she wasn’t able to express how excited she was? My body tensed. What if it’s the latter? What if she can’t get her words out to express her excitement?
I knelt down beside Daria. “Sometimes Isabelle doesn’t say everything that’s on her mind. I know she’s excited to play with you at the museum.”
Daria walked away, but didn’t look any happier. I thought about what I had said. I looked at Isabelle, sitting at a table playing Play Doh quietly beside her friends. She was content, but she wasn’t conversing with them (except for the occasional protest or to ask someone for a Play Doh tool). But I didn’t feel badly for Isabelle since she looked happy. Instead, I felt badly for Daria. She wanted to hear that Isabelle was just as eager to play with her as she was to play with Isabelle. And then, I felt badly for myself. I am the parent of a child who has learned how to talk, but I know she struggles with circles of communication. Social conversation is hard for her because of her motor speech difficulties. She’s made progress, but still has a long way to go in this area. It was hard for me to learn that her lack of conversational skills made another child feel badly.
Five minutes past and it was about time to go home. Isabelle set her creation to dry on a tray. I told her, “Say good-bye to your friends and your teacher.”
She walked over to Daria first. “Bye Daria!” Isabelle wrapped her arms around Daria and hugged her tightly. “I love you.”
Daria hugged back.
I smiled. I smiled because my daughter was affectionate. I smiled because my daughter has a generic way of telling her friends she cares about them. I smiled because my daughter probably made Daria realize she can’t wait to play with her this weekend.