Sunday, April 8, 2012

Courtesy of Elijah

As part of the Passover Seder, after dinner there is the part where you welcome the Prophet Elijah.  It is said that the appearance of Elijah will signal the start of the Messianic age.  So, during Seder you set an extra wine glass for Elijah and after the meal  you invite him in by opening your door so he can enter and saying a prayer, and if you are a Passover Purist you sing the Hebrew Song Eliyahu Hanavi.

We are not purists.  Plus I fear my families' collective singing voices are so bad that if Elijah heard us singing while standing in our open doorway, he'd head for the hills.  But we set the extra wine glass for him anyway.

You never know.

This past Thursday Maya also had her Easter party at school.  The parents are invited to join their kids during the party for a special lunch and then some kind of special activity.  Either Leo or I always attend these parties both because it is fun for Maya but it also gives us more frequent contact with her teachers.  One of the disadvantages of Maya going on a bus to school is that we don't see her teachers every day, so these parties give us something outside of the official meetings to check and see how our girl is doing.

I have always been pleased that during Maya's whole social career, from daycare to her current school, other kids do seem to like her.  She always has one or two kids who are just crazy about her.  I hope that means that she is a likable sort of kid.  She does struggle socially even still, but slowly but surely she is gaining a smidgen of ground here and there.

At this year's party, there were a lot of new kids in Maya's class.  In Maya's school the kids stay about 1.5-2 years in each grade and they don't move forward classically at the end of the school year, but they  move forward when they are ready since each kid works at their own level they hit their milestones differently.  In February, 3 new kids joined Maya's grade 2 from grade 1 and 2 kids moved forward to grade 3.

So when I walked into the party, I was greeted by a few new faces.  One boy, M, a cute little red headed boy, ran right up to me and told me he was Maya's good friend and asked who I was, when I told him I was Maya's mom, he then said, Maya's mom, that means you speak English (as Maya proudly boasts at school that she speaks English with her mom and knows 2 languages).  He was such a cutie pie.  I took my seat near Maya's desk for the party.  A few minutes later I got a big hug from L, that is probably Maya's closest friend at school, a cute little boy that Maya plays with a lot.  He doesn't talk a lot but he is a very sweet, good natured boy and he Maya spend hours chasing each other on the playground with wild abandon.  Later in the day, we ran into H, a little girl who has recently moved to grade 3.  She ran up to me and threw her arms around me.  I asked her if she liked it in her new class and she said she did, but that she misses Maya a lot.

I must admit, it makes me feel very good to know that even though she still might not get the socializing thing right all the time, my girl has friends at school.

We've not done any outside of school socializing with any of the kids as of yet.  Each kid at Maya's school has their own particular set of issues and Dutch people are strange about playdates anyway.  Weekends are restricted mostly to family and close friends of the parents because most children go to school in their own neighborhood which means classmates and friends are a very short distance away on foot or bikes.  Plus, unlike the US, it is perfectly safe for your children to play outside all day so there isn't as much need for parents to become cruise directors in order to ensure that your kid has a social life.

So there's no need for play dates.

Unless you are raising a child on the autistic spectrum who doesn't have many friends and occasions to socialize.

Then you are screwed.

A few months ago at one of the parents' nights a few parents were lamenting the fact that their children do not have friends outside of school and someone suggested passing around a telephone/email list of all the parents so that contacts could be made.  For years I have been incredulous that the schools don't do this anyway, but things work very differently here than in the US in this respect.  The Dutch are big on their privacy.  So at school the only way they would put together the list is if all parents agreed to it, and since the Dutch apparently don't find the need for this sort of thing, it never happened.

At the parents' night I had the opportunity to meet L's mom.  She in particular was the one that suggested the list and talked about how L has never had a play date.  After the meeting I introduced myself to her and gave her my business card and told her that if she ever wanted to organize a play date between L and Maya to contact me.

That was in November.

And if you thought it was challenging to deal with a kid with special needs, organizing a play date seems very daunting.  I've been reluctant to pursue it, largely because I have virtually no contact with the other parents at school since apparently no one wanted to exchange contact details on a telephone list and also I don't have any real information about what other kids' special needs situations are.  Can they even handle a play date, will it be too much for them, too much for me?

And the few play dates we had haven't really led to anything.  Case in point, at Maya's former school she was very good friends with a little boy, D.  D and Maya really loved each other and they, to the best of their limited abilities, were very good friends.  They needed a lot of supervision but they also had a lot of good fun with each other.  D's parents lived just a couple blocks over from us so it was the perfect situation to build a friendship, or so I thought.  Once when there was a bus strike we had to shuttle the kids back and forth to school and Leo met D's parents at school and we arranged to car pool them.  A couple of times I mentioned getting the kids together after school and I got a positive response so we organized a play date on a Sunday morning.

I don't know what happened, maybe D didn't have a good time but considering how those two kids laughed their heads off together and that he cried when it was time to go, I find that hard to swallow.  D's mom was initially pretty nervous about leaving him with us, she asked me if she could stay for a while to make sure he was okay and finally she got comfortable with the idea of leaving, she asked me about 100 times if I was sure I could handle it.  She didn't give me a lot of details, so I had no idea whether I could handle it or not, but I just kept telling her yes, not to worry.   D's mom did tell me that he was prone to giant meltdowns and that he was on medication.  I'd never seen him be anything but sweet but I trusted that D's mom was probably afraid of leaving me to deal with one of his meltdowns.  Finally I told her the decision to leave was hers.  I felt confident about the situation and if something happened I would certainly call her immediately but that ultimately the decision was up to her.  Finally she did decide to leave.

Everything went just fine, no issues at all.  The kids had a great time and although they did need constant supervision, everything went great.  After 2 hours D's mom picked him up and promised the next play date would be at their house.

An hour or so after they left I noticed that D left his jacket behind.  I texted his mom about it and heard nothing.  A week later a second text sent by me offering to drop the jacket off at their house.  A week after that I got a short text response telling me not to worry about it, they would stop by and pick it up.  I texted her to remind her a week or two later and nothing.  Never got another call, never got that invitation.

They apparently left our house and crossed the border.  Never to be heard from again.

After this I started getting a little gun shy about playdates from school.  Maya is a pretty easy kid but a lot of the kids she is close to at school seem to have bigger issues than she does, although I have no real knowledge of their situations.
I just decided to leave well enough alone.

And then (cue music)--

Last night after the Seder finished, after we opened our door and our hearts to Elijah the most incredible thing happened.  I went upstairs to bed and checked my blackberry and saw I had an email.  Thinking it must be an announcement of another sale at the Gap or a news subscription, I was shocked to see an email from L's mom asking to organize a playdate at her house for Maya and L.

So maybe Elijah didn't enter our house last night but perhaps he sent something even better.

A friend for Maya.


  1. Hi Dana, I read your post with great interest. I am not sure how long you have been living in the Netherlands but I guess it always takes time to meet new people and to get to know them. Your little girl sounds absolutely delightful and I hope that the next playdate works so well that it becomes a regular occurance for Maya.

  2. Di, thanks for reading and commenting. I've been in the Netherlands for 10 years. It's not really an immigrant thing, more of a Dutch cultural thing, I think.

    I love reading your blog too. Thank you!