The Cupcake Economy

21 06 2008

I want to teach my children that friends can not be bought. That people should like you for who you are, not for what you have or what you give them. I also want to be able to crack open pearl filled oysters with my glute muscles and bounce gold coins off my abs, and ride a flying unicorn to my multi-million dollar a year job as a professional wine and gourmet pizza taster. Some things just ain’t gonna happen.

It is no secret that Neener and Roo both struggle with their social skills. So far, neither has been able to establish that critical first friendship, although Neener had a little taste of camaraderie back in September. Patricia, a senior kindergartener with an abundance of street smarts and a shortage of reading skills became Neener’s best friend after she helped tape the head of a dandelion back on, following its violent beheading by The Kindergarten Ninja Posse. Unfortunately, the friendship was short lived. Patricia was moved to another class, where, for the rest of the year, her new classmates would reap the benefits of her extensive knowledge of human reproduction and swear words. Sadly, Neener would not. And she has not had a best friend ever since. Roo, on the other hand, has a new best friend everyday. Problem is, her best friends are very frequently inanimate objects: flowers, sticks, hair clips, pieces of paper. Even when Roo does manage to declare a best friend that is a real live human, she misses an important next step: actually speaking to her new best friend, or even giving them any indication whatsoever that they’ve been befriended. Social dynamos, they ain’t.

It’s not that other kids don’t like them, or try to play with and befriend them. Other children very frequently approach Neener and Roo and try to start a game or a conversation. And this is where they get tripped up. Witness this little scene from the other day when we encountered a little boy about their age riding his big wheel trike on the path that runs along the backyards of our new neighbourhood.

Little boy: Hi!

Neener: Hi!

Neener: My name is Neener. That’s N-E-E-N-E-R. What’s your name?

Little boy: Thomas. That starts with a T. Then an H. An O –

At this point, I’m on cloud nine. She not only responded to him saying hello, but she introduced herself and seems to be sustaining conversation! Go Neener, go! And then…

Neener (suddenly breaking into a full body bounce on the balls of her feet, arms flailing wildly, purple framed glasses tilted at an angle that can only be described as insane) shouting: Basketball! Basketball! Basketball! B-A-S-K-E-T-B-A-L-L!

Little boy: ‘Huh?’

But Neener does not hear him. She’s still spazzing out, and is now making weird noises to boot. And remember, she’s not even the Autistic one. No, the Autistic one is on someone’s lawn eating clover. Dear God, I hope it’s just clover she’s eating.

Me (translating): Uhh, I think she likes your shirt. It says Basketball on it.

Little boy: Oh. Yeah. I’m going to my girlfriend’s house. See ya!

Neener: Thomas loves basketball! Thomas loves basketball! Bye Thomas! Thomas loves basketball, Mommy! It said basketball on his shirt!

Me: Yeah, I saw that.

Roo (remnants of clover on her breath): Thomas is my best friend!

We’ve done role playing, we’ve tried to practice being less…uh…random when trying to strike up a conversation with other kids. Some of it has obviously sunk in, but socializing is just not something that comes easy to my kids. So, I think I’m going to have to have a surefire friend-making currency on hand. Something that will let my kids bond with other kids, without relying too much on their ability to engage in social discourse that is not weird. I’m thinking cupcakes. At this age, kids are more than happy to define their friends as the people who give them stuff, rather than the people who think up fun games, or the ones who are sparkling conversationalists, or the ones who don’t eat clover or wear their glasses at the insane angle while flapping and flopping and shouting about what’s on your t-shirt. And who can think about small talk when your mouth is full of cupcake! To the average five year old, friends are the ones who offer you cupcakes. Good cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes. Best friends bring cupcakes with sprinkles. And icing. Lots of icing.

So naturally, I’ll keep plugging away, trying to help Neener and Roo develop their social communication skills. I’ve also fully accepted that they are both marvelously odd children, and many other kids just won’t get them no matter what they or I say and do. But I still want them to experience the pleasures of friendship, even that superficial five-year old type of friendship that revolves around the exchange of goodies. So, the next time we head out to a place where I know we’ll run into potential playmates, I’ll be well prepared to grease the wheels of social interaction for Neener and Roo. With lots and lots of chocolate icing.

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9 responses

21 06 2008
awalkabout

Keep us updated on the oyster-cracking glutes. Bet you could charge money for people to see that. Save up for a real vacation. 🙂

21 06 2008
Winston

Wouldn’t the glutes thing really hurt? Those oysters are all rough and pointy and scratchy, aren’t they?

21 06 2008
Winston

oh, hey look. She said something after the glute bit.

Nathan generally seemed to enjoy being random with Neener.

22 06 2008
domesticblister

Yes, finding other kids who can happily join in on the randomness is a great thing! Neener and Nathan were a good, albeit shrieky, pair.
As for oyster-induced glute injury, the potential for profit (never thought about charging people to see it. hmmmmmm.) would surpass any minor aversions to pain I may have. But, like I said, ain’t gonna happen. Probably.

22 06 2008
nanny

what you need is some kid attracting thingy in your back yard or there abouts.
A pony would be great but it takes up a lot of room in the house. Kites are out because of wires .Hey what about hand blowing bubbles .Very soapy warm water you start . they finish. or a bubble gun. I love bubbles! Well at least it’s a clean activity. Then again , I love chocolate cupcakes too. I forgot. I’m not a kid.

22 06 2008
Nana

I cannot wait till you can get up here to visit and see them with Jennifer’s 3 and Rebecca’s 1.They will be shining stars amongst the common kids.
I will make the cupcakes and just for fun write all the names on them so the girls can hand them out.
cupcakes baked in ice-cream cones usually turn out good too.
just put the cones with the flat bottoms in cup cake pans and fill.
and I will serve you 2 drink s that are fruity ,ice cold, and slushy
and we will play with baby till she giggles herself to sleep
I can dream can’t I?
just put the trailer at maquapit lake. really nice there too.

23 06 2008
domesticblister

Oh we had a bubble machine cranked up in the yard for a few days…until Roo decided it was time to try making mud bubbles, and stuffed the thing full of dirt. I just need to find one or two other kids that are a bit odd too, and do some instructional playdates. I am the Cyrano de Bergerac of mothers here.

Sometimes, i wish that they were more like “common kids” because they just don’t come across as “shining stars” in the company of other children. They come across more like martians. And they are starting to resist and resent attempts to get them to do party tricks like reading and spelling and math and playing the piano around other kids because I think that makes them feel even weirder. And even though we see the wonder in their weirdness, as a mother it can actually be quite heartbreaking to watch them just not know what to do around peers, and instead withdraw. Especially as they get older. There is a significant social and emotional price being paid for Neener and Roo’s “gifts.” It really fills me with a strange mixture of pride, joy and sadness. Like if I don’t laugh about it, I just might cry.

24 06 2008
nanny

was that the bubble machine they got at the party? bet it was great. i can’t get mine to work

28 06 2008
trish

It is clear that nana gets it, and thinks like you, but guess what, they will practice and friends will come, Hanna left for camp today just for kids who have social hiccups, she cried last night, cried this am. and then got on the bus….. already dissing a number of the kids from last year with two girls she likes, our not’ commoners’ will be wonderful, quirky and ecclectic, despite our tears and laughter…..

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