a new friend

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{image is a photo of Brooke, taken by Katie last weekend. She is squatting in the sand and looking back over her shoulder smiling.}

Saturday …

Brooke and I are at the mall. It’s not going well. In fact, it’s going pretty damned not well.

She asks to go into the toy store. I know it’s a crap shoot. It will either be a safe haven for her where she can look at things that interest her .. or .. if there are babies or toddlers in there, it will feel anything but safe for her.

I take a seat at the art table while she looks at the sticker books.

A young girl walks in with her mom. The girl looks to be six, maybe seven. The mom stops to look at something and the girl makes her way over to a display near Brooke.

Brooke moves closer and stands in front of her.

“My name is Brooke,” she says, “what’s your name?”

The girl stands stock-still, apparently not sure how to respond.

Brooke repeats her opening salvo.

“My name is Brooke. What’s your name?”

The girl says her name to her feet.

Brooke extends a hand as one would do in a business meeting.

It hovers in the air.

I don’t realize that I am holding my breath. That I am worrying because this just feels so damned awkward and twelve year-old kids generally don’t shake hands with six or seven year-old kids when they meet and all of these thoughts are running through my head because I just want to protect my girl from embarrassment or rejection or confusion and jumping in and facilitating a quick hello to another child just feels intrusive and wrong but this whole interaction is just so stilted and they are still standing there like that I just want to DO something.

I don’t.

Brooke pushes her hand further into the littler girl’s space until she takes it in one of her own and they sort of, kind of shake hands and Brooke says. “It’s nice to meet you,” and then, without another word, walks away.

I don’t know that I am still holding my breath when I hear the little girl say something to her mom. I don’t want to admit that I’m wincing, that I’m worried, but I’ve seen this unfold before. I’ve seen it go very, very wrong.

“I just made a new friend,” the girl says. “Her name is Brooke and she’s really nice.”

She made a new friend.

Her name is Brooke.

She’s really nice.

Everything that I sat there holding my breath and projecting onto that interaction? Mine, not hers.

Every insecurity and fear and that desperate need to protect my girl from embarrassment or rejection or confusion? Mine.

All of that toxic crap that lingered in the air above them as they figured it out together and each of them made a new friend?

MINE.

The reaction to my girl’s entreaties might not always be so positive.

But if I inject MY insecurity and MY fear into every interaction she has, then what — or whom — is it that the reactions will really be to?

My kid is awesome.

And so often, the very best thing we can all do for her, is just get the heck out of her way.

 

 

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “a new friend

  1. I so get it! I find myself holding my breath when I should just let my little guy (2.5) discover the world his way – my insecurity often hangs in the air completely unfounded…

  2. I had this very same experience over the weekend. My son had a play date with a “typical” peer – a girl that’s he’s been friends with since first grade (but we’ve known forever). I sat in the other room and listened to them play. There were several occasions where my son missed a social cue, or a question, or delved into parallel play in his own game while his friend was still playing their pretend game. I would start to chime in…and then I remembered a post you had written on Facebook with this similar message. And I kept quiet. Within a moment or so, he’d find his way back into the game or his friend would adjust what she was doing to be in his realm.
    It’s hard to get out of the way when for years we’ve been taught to do the opposite and facilitate when they cannot, mostly out of fear of ridicule or a missed friend connection. But when we can step out of that role and they can just “be”, the results can be a glorious dance of two people connecting on their terms in their way. And if it’s not that way, then maybe that friend connection shouldn’t happen anyway 🙂

    • “When we can step out of that role and they can just “be”, the results can be a glorious dance of two people connecting on their terms in their way. And if it’s not that way, then maybe that friend connection shouldn’t happen anyway.” OMG.O.S.H. THIS!!!!

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  4. I hold my breath every time my son approaches or is approached by another child. I never know if it will go alright or not. Most of the time, it goes ok. Sometimes I have to step in and explain why my son is ignoring someone trying to say hello so there are no hard feelings. Once I had to step in and stop my son from smacking another child because they took part of his legos so they could help him build something but he didn’t understand they were only trying to play with him.

    This dance we do between how involved and not involved to be in each interaction is a hard one some days.

  5. We had a lot of anxiety about Baguette’s new school. We felt strongly that it was the right place for her, but it also meant a complete and total change to the way she’s been living her life for the past five years, going to the same day care/preschool every day. One of her providers said, “You need to trust Baguette.”

    We knew she was right. We still were scared.

    She was right.

    Baguette had a couple of rough dropoffs, and then settled in. She’s had a couple of rough days. But she’s been invited to a classmate’s birthday party, and I see other kids approach her and speak to her–kindly–by name.

    She’s so strong, and so adaptable. I want to protect her, but I’m delighted to learn that she doesn’t need protecting in all the ways I think she might.

  6. Kudos to Brooke. I find myself wincing as well in these situations. My daughter, 11, is much like Brooke. She tends to walk up to complete strangers – although usually adult women or teenage girls and will tell them her name and then asks them their name and usually what their favorite color is. I am saddened by how many adults will look at her funny and not answer her. She will repeat the question, sometimes 2 more times with no response. This is when I step in and try to divert her attention elsewhere. She will say “why didn’t they answer me?” and I have no good explanation for her. On rare occasions though someone WILL answer her questions and I get the same response – “mom! I made a new friend!” and then she walks away.

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