Damian bear
24 July 2001
Damian comes home from occupational therapy while I’m unpacking the last box of clothing. He lights up when he spots the empty box, grabs hold and carts it off down the hall.

When I walk into his room ten minutes later, the box sits in the middle of the floor, forgotten. He got it there, but he didn’t know what to do with it. Part of his developmental issues, he can’t -- yet -- connect the dots in imaginative play. So I do it for him.

"Damian, look at this!" I topple the box onto its side. "It’s a cave! You know who lives in caves? Bears do! Are you a bear, Damian? You look like a bear."

Damian likes this idea. He drops his toys and crawls into the box.

"Are you hibernating for the winter?"

I get a blank stare. Right. Moving on: "Ooh, look, there’s a bear in that cave! Let’s see, how can I make friends with the bear? What do bears like? Do they like apples?"


"I think I’ll go see." I fetch a plastic apple, hold it in front of the box cave. "Damian Bear, I have a red juicy apple for you!"

Damian Bear comes out, scoops the apple into his paw, and retreats to the back of his cave. He makes munching noises.

"Hmm, what else do bears like?" I spot some blocks. "Do they like to make towers?"


"Oh, too bad. I’m going to make a tower. Ooh look, it’s a really tall tower. I hope nobody knocks it down."

Damian Bear comes back out with a mischievous grin, knocks the tower over.

We have fun with blocks, my bear and I. I build another five towers. "What do bears like to do with a tower?" I wonder. Damian Bear knows: "Knock it down!"

Much later, I sit in the rocking chair in Damian’s room, watching Dan play helicopters with Damian. They tumble onto the bed, being silly together. I end up on the bed somehow too. I say "I met a bear today, didn’t I, Damian?"

Damian sits up. Goes running out of the room. I say to Dan, "That’s Damianese for "I got an idea!" He laughs, agrees.

We follow at a more leisurely pace. Damian is standing in the guest room, looking disappointed. The boxes are gone.

"Blankets make good bear caves too, you know," I say. Dan holds the blankets up for Damian to crawl under. We peek under. Damian peeks back. Waiting for the next cue, whatever it may be.

"I’d love to make friends with that bear. If I put my hand under there, do you think he’ll growl or let me pat his head? One way to find out!" I extend my hand. Damian says "rrrr" in a low rumbly voice.

I take my hand out, mock-afraid. I try again. This time he tucks his hands under his belly, signaling his willingness to be petted.

"Do bears like apples or bananas, do you think?"

"Apples," my small bear tells me.

Apples it is. I get up to fetch his plastic apple. Dan suggests this bear might also like mango. I get a piece of dried mango. I offer Damian Bear both. He says "I want mango" and reaches his paw out for the tasty fruit.

"It seems this is a tropical bear," I say.

Dan agrees. "That explains why he’s wearing an Egyptian-patterned shirt."

"Yes, tropical bears dress with more style. Do you want more mango, Bear?"

The bear does. He comes out from his cave looking rumpled and bearish. I dare much. I tell him if he wants this mango, he has to give me a kiss.

He does. I’ve won him over, made myself a bear friend.

We sit on the bed, two grownups and one little bear. Content.

The foregoing is a sample of floor time play. Interactive pretend play. Helping Damian learn to think symbolically. He's definitely learning, no question. Here are two of his recent ideas:

Since getting his haircut, he's become quite the barber. And he's right, I do need a haircut.

And since he got sick, his med kit has been getting a workout. Apparently Dante, too, was under the weather. I'm happy to report Dr. Damian's treatment worked wonders, however. The cat recovered almost instantly. A true miracle.

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