Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Friendship 101

How do you teach a kid to make friends?  I wasn't great at it myself when I was a kid.  We had another incident this past weekend where J was invited to a friend's birthday party that A was not invited to (which is fine--he's J's classmate), and so we had to bring him to a fun batting cage/laser tag/arcade place for the party, and A couldn't go.  We took A to the mall while J was at the party, for something to do.  It seems like we've had to do this so many times, and usually it's not that big of a deal--it has seemed to make me and the hubby more sad than A.  He has talked about it, but we just explain it away by saying, maybe the kids in your grade don't have as many birthday parties.  And all the time, trying to encourage him to make friends.

But this time it was bad.  While J was at the party, we had a very sad A.  He broke down in the back of the car, crying, and telling us he's just not a popular kid.  It seriously broke me.  What the heck do you say to that?  I tried to cheer him up, feeling so powerless from the front seat of the car.  I used the old line about kids not having parties.  This time he said he knows they do--he sees kids passing out invitations all the time, and he just never gets one.  AUGH!!!!  I certainly don't blame the parents, but here's a tip out there for you parents:  If you're sending birthday invitations with your kid to the school to be passed out, put them in a large envelope addressed to the teacher, and ask the teacher to discreetly put them in the kids' take-home stuff.  That may avoid some hurt feelings.  Or maybe even a broken heart.

So I didn't know what to say.  I just kept saying, "oh, honey, I'm so sorry."  I talked to him a little bit about how he is a little shy.  And how he feels insecure about approaching kids, and it's for no good reason.  I know he's not picked on or anything.  And from the amount of time I spend at the school, I can tell the kids generally like him.  They just don't know him that well.  He's absolutely a sweet kid.  He's nice, he's funny, he's cute.  He just doesn't put himself out there.  And that's not something you can force.

Do I talk to the school?  I don't want a situation where people try too hard to form friendships and make his situation even more obvious.  It's already apparent to them that he's a unique kid.  I don't need to make that even more of an issue.  And living out here in the country, it's not as easy for him to just go out to play with kids other than his brother.  It's more of a process to get him together with friends.  Sometimes I wish I could just keep him at home in a bubble.  Ha!

There's not a way to make him feel better about it, other than to take his mind off of it.  As an adult, we know that eventually we find our way and make our little circle of people.  But I remember being that age, and being unable to imagine being any other age, and I'm not going to try to soothe him by saying, "it'll get better."  Because he can't believe that yet.  I asked about his friend, the sweet kid we've had over a couple times.  I'll call him R.  He still plays with R every day.  They are good friends.  So it's not like he doesn't have ANYONE.  R's birthday is in the summer, and until this year, and I don't know if they have a party or not.  But that's how I explained it to A.  It's tougher to get in touch with your buddies when you don't see them at school every day.

So all I can do is keep encouraging him.  Trying to mend his broken heart.  We took him to the arcade with his brother and a couple cousins the day after J's party.  They had a ton of fun.  We told him that in two weeks we're going to invite R and one of J's friends over for a sleepover.  Baseball starts in the spring.  So more opportunities are coming.  And he's growing and maturing.  

Parenting is hard.  Our hearts break when our kids are hurting.  And this is just the beginning.  Wait until they start noticing the girls.

And a side note to a couple of my adult friends:  Thanks for lunching with me yesterday.  You are delightful ladies, and excellent friends.  And even though friendship is something that can be difficult to navigate even as adults, just remember that friendship should be easy.  It's a soft place to fall, not something that should make for sleepless nights, knots in our stomachs, or bitchy text messages.  It's a place for laughing, encouragement, and understanding.  And the occasional cocktail.  Anything less than that may not be worth your time!

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh Teri! You said it perfectly! Thanks for making me laugh hysterically the other day! I needed that so badly! Still trying to process the "numbers" though! LOL
    Luv, Jen