Aside from school, Polar Bear doesn’t actually spend a lot of time with other children. There are the odd times we visit one of his friends and the times that we go to parks or play areas and he plays with other kids there, but generally we don’t mingle with others. It can be easy to forget how different Polar Bear is from other kids his age. So when he was given a party invite and I insisted on going along (because of his fractured arm) to make sure he didn’t get hurt, I saw quite a lot.
Despite some of his obvious differences the other kids seem to like him quite a bit which is great. They didn’t seem as annoyed by his overwhelming play as some kids might. Whilst most children will know when they’ve gone too far or taken a game too seriously, Polar Bear doesn’t seem to have this ability to recognise limits. Recognising boundaries is hard for him too. He gets too close to people, he gets in their faces, he will take games too seriously even so far as accidentally hurting someone because he doesn’t know when to stop. I saw this during the party, when the kids were going around hitting other kid’s balloons and trying to pop them. Polar Bear didn’t run around randomly swiping at a balloon every time he got close to one, he would stand next to a kid or follow them around determined to pop their balloon before moving on to someone else. He even went looking for something sharp to pop the balloons with. He didn’t stop until every balloon was popped, although he wasn’t as aggressive as some kids and he did avoid the younger children which is an improvement.
When it was time to play the party games Polar Bear did really well. Previously he has had a meltdown when he didn’t win in every game. This time he played by the rules and didn’t try to cheat, he won a toy and was happy to have won once and didn’t meltdown when he ‘lost’ in the other games. This time he had fun instead of focusing on the prizes which is a great improvement for him. Halfway through the party, after he’d won his prize, he headed outside to play with the truck he had won. When the next games were called out and it started to rain, every child came inside to play while he stayed outside, focussed on clearing paths with his truck. Most parents would have seen this and tried to push their child to join in and keep out of the rain. Just as well I know him by now, I left him to it, avoiding what would have been a meltdown if I’d tried to move him. He wasn’t bothered at not playing the games and he was oblivious to the rain (thankfully not too heavy), he was happy doing his own thing.
When it came to eating the party food, chicken nuggets and chips with beans, Polar Bear was the only one to go and get some salt and vinegar to put on his food. The other kids took their cue from him and put some on their food, I can bet none of them would have gotten the condiments without asking first. Polar Bear is very independent.
When the rain stopped all the kids went outside to run around. Polar Bear happily joined in this game and accompanied all the kid’s screams and shouts with a shrieking sound. I saw some of the looks on the parents faces, the kids were obviously used to this as they didn’t bat an eyelid. Another point where Polar Bear differed from his peers.
When we first entered the party Polar Bear stood in front of the birthday kid and smiled. No ‘hello’ or ‘happy birthday’, it’s something he’s always done, he’s not big on greetings. When we left I had to prompt him to thank the birthday kid and to say good bye. He managed the thank you but left without any goodbyes, something I’m very aware is a regular occurrence at school too. It was so busy in their that I don’t think anyone noticed us leaving anyway, which was good because I’m not fond of goodbyes and thank yous either.
Polar Bear tried to go to the party in sweatpants and fleece, we somehow managed to get him to wear jeans and a t-shirt (and a fleece, there’s no stopping him wearing them). Most kids are happy to dress up for parties, especially the girls it seems. Polar Bear is more bothered about comfort. I get that, I went in jeans and jumper so couldn’t really complain.
After the party was over Polar Bear was happy. He got to have fun, play with his friends, won a toy and got a party bag. Overall it was good. No meltdowns and only a bit of silliness and moody behaviour leading up to the party. I think the whole thing was quite successful. Yes, Polar Bear has a lot of differences to his peers but most of them seem either not to notice or not to care, and he isn’t bothered about their differences either. He is who he is and his differences make him that person. I wouldn’t want him to change, he has loads of great qualities. If I’m being honest, he’s not so different from me when I was his age. Who wants to be normal anyway?