After many many months, Raghav spent a day each with two of his long-time friends, who came over. One of them is from the apartment complex we used to live in. The other is the son of a good friend of mine. He has known both of them for some years now.
It was interesting to watch how he played differently with both his friends. With J, he had absolutely no difficulties and arguments. There was complete understanding and acceptance from both sides. There was a trust that filled the spaces between them, and that was evident in the manner in which they played. Raghav was actually able to play with J for most parts of the day.
With A, it seemed more like parallel play. They were both in the same physical space, and interacting by talking and sharing, but each was doing his own thing! And when they decided to play something together, they needed me to play with them and be the go-between.
However, both friends were oodles of fun.....there was laughter, shouting, crying, screaming, jumping, running, quiet time and so much more that filled the house to the brim :)
There was Lego, Pictureka, Pictionary, car racing, pretend play with Lego and the Lego Movie characters (with detailed dialogues and sound effects), doing things on the iPad, playing with remote cars in the parking lot, chatting over lunch, playing outdoors and so much more!
Here are some photos of his fun times with both his friends!
Two days with Raghav and his two friends was enough time for me to get more grounded in my trust in my son and in Life. Here is what I learned from this experience:
Children learn skills that they need, when they are ready and are inspired to learn them.
Raghav got ready early on his own, to go and get his friend, who lives quite far away from where we are. They haven't met ever since we moved to our new place. He was all excited and so was his friend J, who also got ready early and even called me to check if Raghav had left to pick him up :)....the joy of sweet anticipation! Getting ready early in the morning and leaving the house on time, without arguments and delays is quite unheard of in Raghav's life :)
Raghav had already made some plans as to what to play with him. He put his two remote control cars on charge, and set an alarm to help him remember when to turn them off. He built a few things from the Lego Movie with his Lego, to play with his friend, and thought of other things he could do. It was pleasantly surprising to see him plan and organize his space and time, all on his own. I am convinced that these skills just come when they have to, all on their own, when they are ready for them. We don't need to do anything really, except watch and enjoy the slow unfolding, with wonder and joy.
When children are given the space to be themselves, they know what they need and how to set boundaries.
Both his friends go to school, and so could come over only during their summer break. But Raghav was very clear that he could not manage to have both of them over on the same day to play. "After I play with J for one whole day, I need my space....I need one full day to myself before A can come over amma!", he said with certainty. I was amazed at the clarity he had of himself, his needs and his boundaries - something that I struggle with even today.
When you are your best friend, you don't need to look outside of you all the time, to make new friends.
When you really need friends, your deep desire will get the universe to conspire and make it happen. You can wait in peace, for as long as it takes, until you are able to meet with the friends you hit it off with. And, more importantly, you do not always depend on another to fulfill your need for love and belonging.
When you love yourself enough, you are full, and also find ways to love everyone you meet.
Whenever I asked Raghav if he would like to make new friends in our new house, or if he needed help to make friends, he would dismiss it off with : "Amma, I don't need any new friends. I have my two or three friends, and they are enough. I can wait to play with them, even if I have to wait a long time." That said it all :) This time he had waited for almost 8 months.
Enjoy the experience and the experiencing, and don't constantly seek (new) experiences just to feel good.
So Raghav can wait for months on end to play with his friends, and is okay with that, simply because I think he "fills" himself up with the experience and the "experiencing" of the experience, when it happens. He lives each of those moments fully; he feels the joy, excitement and the pain and sadness completely; and that "fullness" fills him up, until the next time.
Children are inclusive by nature, as long as we get out of the way.
J and Raghav have a perfect understanding. Raghav can play for a while, but then after that, he usually needs some space and time for himself. J understands that and chooses to play on his own for a while, with no further explanations needed. It was beautiful to watch them weave in time together and alone, through the day, almost like a little dance, with perfect understanding! This time around, Raghav made an effort to think about J and what he could play with, when he wanted his own quiet time. Whenever Raghav eats, he needs to watch something on the iPad. J knew that from earlier. He sat and ate next to Raghav, without asking Raghav once about it....there was a complete acceptance as they sat and ate together, yet alone! When J got bored of playing with something, Raghav was ready this time to try playing something else that both of them could enjoy. That was a huge first for him!
When one is hungry, one just eats. It is we adults who attach emotions to even a simple task like eating. When his other friend A was hungry, he asked Raghav if he was going to have lunch. When Raghav told him that he had eaten breakfast late, and that he was not yet hungry, A said okay, and just sat down and ate by himself, while chatting with me and enlightening me about various birds over lunch :) Life is simple, until we get down to complicating it!
Children who have had the space to be themselves and accepted with all their emotions, are able to give others space and accept their emotions.
Don't assume anything with children, because you never know what's going on in their minds, until they tell you!
Raghav had been into playing board games over the last month, and so, when A and he were stuck with not knowing what to play after a while, we sat down and made a list of possible things to do. I suggested the car racing game, as I felt Raghav was okay now about winning or losing, as he had actually "helped" me win once and catch up, by flexing the rules, when the three of us played it.
When A heard about the car racing game, he got all excited and wanted to play it with Raghav and me. After much coaxing, Raghav agreed to play. There was a time when A was unlucky and kept picking cards that asked him to miss a turn. Raghav promptly felt that was not fair, and got him to pick up a fresh card, until it was something that he could do. Everything was going on well, until A said something and pretended to move Raghav's car way behind, jokingly. Raghav got very upset and angry immediately and went off in a huff, screaming and crying and expressing his extreme displeasure. A watched him go and asked me if Raghav was angry. I said yes and went on to tell him to ask Raghav what had made him angry. When he went in, Raghav screamed to us to leave him alone. A immediately walked away from the room and told me :" I think he wants to be left alone. I think he is very angry. I think if we let him be for some time, he will feel better and then come on his own." I was moved by the ease with which he accepted Raghav for who he was.
Later, after things settled down, Raghav came out and expressed how he had felt because of what A had done. A said that he was playing and that he would not do that again. They continued the game. All was well until A won the race and the game. Raghav could not take that and was in tears. He went away to be by himself again. Later, he told me that he could accept me or my husband winning, but not his friend or someone else who is not a part of our family.
I realised then that one could not assume things with children (or with anyone for that matter). I had assumed, because of what had transpired over the last few weeks, that Raghav was now okay with winning and losing, when he was not. Not yet. Not completely. These generalisations happen in their own time. They cannot be forced or made to happen.