My little boy is sad. This makes me sad. As I may have alluded to earlier in the school year, Sam is finding it tricky to navigate the social wormhole that is first grade. He actually says, “Mom, it’s tricky.” My boy is nothing but astute when it comes to feelings, his feelings, but has a harder time figuring out his peers.
He had one constant friend, a little boy who is perhaps a little quirky too — but unlike Sam, X seems to be accepted by all the cool kids (the kids that Sam desperately wants to play with). Whereas in kindergarten play date invites were passed out to all like a bag of lollipops, first graders have settled on their favorite flavors and invites are not as forthcoming. Birthday party across the street? Not invited. He was hurt and blamed me for not taking him (I gladly accepted the blame).
This one little boy, though, had been pretty constant.
So when Sam announced that he plays alone at recess now — an unstructured, loud environment that had gotten better (I thought) with intervention from a few adults that were asked to facilitate — I asked him why? What about X? That’s when my little boy said that X has a new friend. And that’s when he started to cry. “He was my one, most special favorite friend, Mom. He doesn’t play with me anymore.”
Help, readers! I’m feeling blind rage towards first-graders! My first instinct is to scoop him up, move far away to a place where he is loved and admired for being such a special, brilliant kid. A place with kids who get him. Doesn’t a place like that exist? Yes, he is quirky. Yes, he sometimes sounds like a 30-year-old when he talks. Yes, he has a hard time modulating his voice. But he is loving and caring and wants to be your friend. He wants you to be his friend. He is a damned good friend.
And just so you know, we have had X over numerous times. They play really well together but lately I hear X scolding Sam: “Why do you talk so loud? You don’t need to yell, Sam.” And while I know he has this tendency — I can’t tell you how many times a day I remind him “Inside Voice!” — I bristle to hear one of his peers, who can be just as loud, lecturing him this way. I hate later, after the play date, when I ask him about it and Sam asks me, “Do you think he’ll still be my friend?” I hate that the answer was apparently not.
Instead I hug him tight and tell him that it’s hard when our friends seem to forget us when they make new ones. I suggest he try playing with both of them — and this is where it’s tricky for me. I know that social relationships adapt and change frequently at this age. That is to say, I know this because I am told this. I have no practical knowledge of this phenomenon. I look around and what I see are pretty solid friendships going back to last year. What I see are kids who once played with him? Now they ignore him.
But then he says, “Mom, it’s okay. I feel better. I’m drawing you a picture of how it goes.” Ten minutes later he brings me this, an “Imformaition” key helpfully written on the back, and he explains:
“1. First I start off with the Happys (they are yellow).
2. Then something happens and the Attack begins (those are the red mixing with the yellow).
3. A Volcano forms and erupts (I yell or make noise).
4. The Angrys come in (they are red).
5. The Smokys are here and they make me very quiet.
6. The Blues, I am very sad.
7. There is a Problem now because I can’t talk.
8. I Rest and then the Happys slowly return.
9. The Betters are here (they are green). And I’m okay.”
He is more than okay. He is way better than I am.
I can’t help but think that if he can so clearly express every stage of every emotion he feels, then he is doing way better than 99% of us. I think how I’ve had my head in the sand the last few months, not really able to deal with much and wonder how it might be different if I could draw myself a map of “how it goes” for me.