I've written before about my concerns for Luke, our wonderful, sensitive, fragile boy who sometimes seems a bit too sensitive and fragile. Recently, my worries resurfaced when a friend mentioned that he seemed to be having a down sort of week. My initial answer to her was, no, he's been fine - but then I thought about it. He's fine when hanging in a small group, or reading, or horsing around with Owen, but put him out on a playground, with hordes of kids, or at pick-up baseball, again with lots of kids, and he just goes to pieces. He'll pull off by himself, cry, ask to go sit in the car, anything to get away from the overwhelming noise and motion of fifty children and umpteen simultaneous games of tag.
You'd think I would have noticed, right? Well, no. I really didn't, and putting the guilt I feel about this aside, looking at the problem head-on, I think I know why: it is because Luke used to be more vocal in his displeasure. A lot more vocal. No one can miss a kid who screams bloody murder in public, right? But his new habit of going off quietly allowed me to ignore his pain. I knew where he was, but paid no attention to his state of mind.
Or more precisely, the state of Luke's soul. I am not particularly religious, and I use the word soul in the sense of spirit, of a person's true heart center. But when my friend brought up the sadness she saw at these big gatherings, I realized that I needed to do something.
The solution? Old Sturbridge Village. With friends.
The animals we came across really helped.
So did the potters.
Poor Ben, I have pestered him almost ceaselessly since we got home about how we might get ourselves a pottery wheel - or, build one maybe. (Anyone know how we might acquire one, or create one?)
And the cool thing is, our day restored more souls than just Luke's.
A beautiful fall day, when the trees are just beginning to turn, spent in the company of friends, was healing for me, too, in a way that I didn't even realize I'd needed.
I know that this can't be the whole solution for my son; one day, one small outing, can't 'fix' it all. But I'm looking at this day as a beginning. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll play, visit, go on field trips, just be, in small groups... perhaps we'll try the occasional big-group gathering and hope for the best.
Truthfully, this what we have been doing all along - it is my mindset that has changed. This visit to Old Sturbridge Village marks where I really start thinking about my children's 'socialization.' They must know themselves well, pull back when they're getting overwhelmed, dive in when it feels right. What is life for, if not this?