SchmoopyBoy was recently moved up into a new classroom at his preschool. He is now in the room with the older children – 3 1/2 to 4, with a few as old as 5 if they’ve had a birthday during the school year. It is a slightly more structured preschool environment as compared to the room with the 2-3 year olds. He was promoted along with his best friend, a vivacious, outgoing, gorgeous little girl who I’ll call Leah (not her real name), which is helping to ease the transition.
Last Tuesday the school had a special Friendship Day event. All the parents were invited to join the classes for snack time. It was the first time since his promotion that I’ve been there. It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see him in action, per se, in the new environment. He is slowly adjusting. Very slowly. Big kids intimidate him a little. Groups of big kids that all know each other intimidate him a lot. The only child he wants to play with is Leah.
There are a lot more girls in this class than their previous class. Lots of little girls at the same level as Leah. She is, of course attracted to them and is starting to branch out and increase her circle of friends. SchmoopyBoy wants to play with her only. He wants her to play with him only. When she plays with another girl he feels rejected and lonely.
I don’t know how to help him branch out and become friends with other children in the class. Whenever I suggest it he tells me he only wants to play with Leah. I asked the teacher what I can do to help and encourage him, and she told me he just needs to find his way. I mentioned that he has told me that the bigger kids scare him. She pointed out that there are other children his age and size, but they have a “different energy” than SchmoopyBoy. They are extroverts, they are doers. SchmoopyBoy holds back. He observes. He wants to check out the scene and feel comfortable before he ventures out. He prefers one on one interactions with a few special friends to large groups.
What's important to note here is that everything I have written above describing SchmoopyBoy might as well have been written about myself at his age.
As I was observing the scene, something was triggered inside me. I don’t know if I was transported back to my own preschool days and was reliving my own social anxieties through my child, but I was overcome with emotion. I cried the entire drive home and then some.
I don’t want him to be like me. I don’t want him to have my social anxieties, my insecurities. I don't want him to know the loneliness of self-imposed isolation.
Of course I initially fell into the mother-blame trap. Perhaps if I did something different he would be more comfortable and confident in new social environments. But then, I am his mother for crying out loud, genetics have got to account for something, is it really so surprising that he is so like I was at the age of three?
I was talking to a very old and dear friend on the phone over the weekend and telling her about how I was feeling. She said to me, Yes, if he is like you he may not have so very many friends. But look at the friends you do have. Once you make a friend, it is a friend for life. Your friends love you, would do anything for you. Would it really be so bad if he is like you after all?
Go figure, just as I am feeling so low about myself and what I have imposed on my offspring by nature or nurture, my oldest and dearest friend tells me just what I need to hear.