Since the beginning of January 2013 I have had the opportunity to read several fantastic blog posts which have been linked up to ‘The Weekly Adoption Shout Out’ or #WASO, which is co-hosted by www.thepuffindiaries.com and www.theboysbehaviour.co.uk Last week’s optional theme was ‘play’.
Reading some of these fantastic posts, started me thinking about how this theme fits into the day to day living in the ‘Hive’
What is Play and what does it mean to each individual member of my household?
In the Hive, the word ‘play’ is most definitely interpreted in so many ways and very much means something different for each of us (including the pets).
Take our pets for example: – Beedog is only one year old, so anytime she is not eating or sleeping is playtime for her. She and the boys are often getting up to mischief together, but if she was given a choice or the half the opportunity, her favourite playmates would be our Cats (Cbee1 & Cbee2). Now our cats on the other hand – their idea of fun is to torment Beedog by sitting just out of her reach or playing the occasional game of ‘pat a cake/swot the puppy’ with her through the stairgate. Another favourite pastime of the cats is ‘whack a mole my feet’ (the rules of the game are simple – who can use their teeth and claws to make me squeal the loudest while I am in bed).
Now, the 2 legged residents of the hive are far more complicated! When I asked the boys what they thought ‘Play’ meant, they listed several of their favourite activities. Beeswax’s suggestions suggested that he is finally beginning to show some self-awareness about himself, and demonstrating how far he has come in terms of play since being placed with us.
Beeswax’s idea of play involves sitting for hours playing computer games, if he were allowed to get away with it. But, when we do have ‘mum is so tight’ moments when we have managed to prise the games controller from his sticky, rather big paws, he will usually very reluctantly agree to going outside (if the weather permits) and riding his bike/scooter or more recently, he and Buzzbee enjoy having ‘Nerf gun’ battles with each other (they particularly enjoy my dad visiting as he is probably the biggest kid on the planet and gets a warped sense of satisfaction of being allowed to pelt them both with foam bullets. Usually hell breaks loose and the street is filled with squeals of laughter). Although Beeswax insists on being on the computer as much as possible, his first love is Football and even when not playing football, he is never happier than when he has some kind of ball either in his hand or attached to his foot. Beeswax really struggles with interacting with people if there is a chance they will try to get close to or connect with him. He has always for as long as I have known him, struggled with ‘play’ in terms of creativity and will very easily go into a tailspin if Buzzbee asks him to play with him. To his credit at the beginning he would do absolutely anything to avoid ‘Playing’ but his is trying and that takes considerable bravery on his part (he will kill me if his peers find out though).
Buzzbee on the other hand – his list was endless as you would expect from a 7 year old and, in his mind, every activity and game was his ‘absolute favouritist’. Anyone who has read my previous posts will know that Buzzbee’s biggest obsession is Dinosaurs and they are regularly incorporated into his activities in one way or another.
Buzzbee’s creative play can be entertaining and at the same time alarming to anyone who is watching or listening to him. He has a wonderful imagination, which I hope he never loses. I love listening to his ‘chatter and giggles’ when he is in the throw of a role play activity, whether it is him on his own with his action figures saving the world and fighting the bad guys, or helping his dinosaurs who are locked into a raging battle for power, to activities which involve the participation of his peers or adults. But, there have been times when his play has left me cringing or squealing with shock. Times like when we have had social workers visiting, who then probably on leaving wonder what was really going on behind closed doors (actually although I joke about this, it is half true). The two examples that will be forever etched on my brain are:-
• Buzzbee sword fighting with his new SW and became so entrenched in the role of Peter Pan that when his SW turned around pretending to be defeated, he slapped her square across her backside with his foam sword. Even while I am typing this I can still hear the sound of that slap! To be fair, although she was shocked, she took it in all in good humour (I did warn her he was getting over stimulated).
• Again during another SW visit, he came down stairs with one of his soft toys bound to a pole, like a pig on a spit roast. When asked why he had done that, he told her that the bear had been really naughty and had hit another teddy, so needed to be punished (Noooooooooo!)
His play is very free-spirited and spontaneous a lot of the time and generally once he has started playing he becomes obsessed and intently focused on the game in hand but in saying this, play for Buzzbee holds so many dimensions and I have learnt to read his emotional state by observing his activities. His play is rough, chaotic and controlling, and it has been like this ever since the first time I met him. I think undoubtedly, this kind of play is the one of the biggest issues school have struggled with in terms of his social interactions with his peers and it has got him into more trouble than I care to think about, but for Bumble and I, we have learnt to accept that this is part of him and he cannot change overnight. His lack of emotional regulation and self-awareness means that several times a day we need to step in, to help bring his play back down to a safe and manageable level for all involved, but we don’t have a magic wand and there is no quick fix. It has took Bumble and I a long time to get to the point of being able to read our boys and slowly school will find a way of doing the same but for now all I can do is support them the best I can and hope that in the end that will be enough.
Now even reading this myself, my boys sound like any other 7 & 12 year old boys, and they are in most ways. What is different is the intensity of control that is felt during their activities, or the titanic eruptions and fallout when it has gone wrong and they feel they have lost their control. The only way I have ever been able to describe the intensity of their distress to people who are not living with them or do not understand why ‘we allow them to act in this way’, I usually ask them to visualise a 2 year old in the body of 7 or 12 year olds and then say ‘how would you respond to that 2 year old?’. I honestly believe if I didn’t hold that in mind when either boy is in a ‘state’, I wouldn’t have a clue how to help them and I would really be asking myself if I was cut out to be their mother.
Another type of play that has almost taken over my family is ‘Role-Play’. Buzzbee spends so much time pretending to be someone or something else that it is hard to keep up with him sometimes, and although Beeswax says he can’t do it, he has been known, on occasion, to get so drawn into a computer game that afterwards he will act out scenes with Buzzbee.
But on the role-play obsession, I am afraid Bumble takes the trophy, and before I carry on I feel I have to make a declaration:
I am a widow! A ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Role Play’ widow to be exact.
Like many Golf or Football widows, my significant half spends a considerable amount of his personal time dedicated to playing with his mistress, ‘World of Warcraft’ on his computer and once a month he disappears off to an old university buddy’s house to spend even more time with ‘her’; and, along with several other grown men, who then play board games and ‘Campaigns’, which involve them pretending to be someone they are not, ALL WEEKEND.
I won’t lie to you. It ‘Bugs’ me the endless evenings I am trying to have a conversation with Bumble and realise that he is so engrossed in his game that when I think he is responding to me, I take offence, only to then realise he was not speaking to me at all. He was talking to a random character in his blooming computer game.
So, my question to myself is “how did I fit into this world of Play within the Hive”? I guess, without sounding arrogant, the answer is: I am everywhere; I am what each of them needs me to be. I am the playmate, the facilitator and the referee. There is only one area I cannot do and slowly the boys have learnt to accept it. Both boys are climbers and love climbing trees or going to a local tree top adventure playground but I CANNOT DO HEIGHTS, so if they get stuck (which so far they never have), they need to trust me enough to trust that I will send someone to help them and that I will be waiting at the bottom to give them a hug (if they want it).
Despite all the trials and tribulations that comes with parenting children with complex emotional and social needs. Play has never been more important for my family. It has given us (and, family and friends) the valuable opportunity to bond and get to know Beeswax and Buzzbee on a level they are more comfortable with, and at the same time ‘play’ has given both boys the chance to ‘let go’ even for a short while and enjoy their childhood without fear of what is coming around the corner.
I will leave this post with a quote from my dad.
“You are never too old to play games with your grandchildren. You are only as old as the children’s game you are playing” Grandad-Bee (59 years 11 months)