“It’s come at last”, she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Trying to explain to a 4 year old the intricacies in simple language of what makes a relationship can be the most dizzying most repetitive ride in the world. Our first year in Big School was been a resounding success. Nadi did things that took my breath away mainly because I was still looking at him with preschooler mom eyes. The fact is the summer between preschool and nursery, magic happens and suddenly there is a proper little boy in place of your baby. Fully armed with my insider knowledge that Nadi “takes a while to adjust” we walked him to his classroom, looking perfect in his new uniform. I looked at him apprehensively. He shoved both hands in his shorts’ pockets half turned, smiled, said “Bye Mama” and sauntered casually into class in an almost debonair manner, pausing for a second to check out some puzzles on the shelf. I remember coming home in shock at my candid dismissal.
Cue month 4 or 5 into classes and regular school life, I start hearing of one girl’s name appear more frequently in conversation. It’s a new name and I’m intrigued. Nadi takes his time with people generally and for someone to have clicked for him in this spontaneous manner is interesting to me. “She won’t play with me” Nadi explained, a bit lost and sad. “Why doesn’t she play with me?” Despite my promises to let playground issues resolve themsleves, my radar goes up and i spend a few weeks observing and assessing the situation from a distance. “Nadi,” I try explaining to him, “she likes playing with different things. And you can’t make someone play what you want them to play” “But why, Mama?” he asks simply. “My game is fun too- it’s called running.” “I know Nadi, but she likes the sandpit” “But that’s boring” he claims.
Watching your child bewildered at someone not liking them or not wanting to play with them is an odd helpless feeling. Especially when you know your kid likes them enough to be hurt by it. Part of me wanted to go upto the little person and say “Hey. What’s wrong with you? My kid’s awesome! Play with him” and the other part of me, the newer side I was a bit taken aback to discover, said, out loud to Nadi, “You have other friends who love playing your game, why not focus on them.?” “Doesn’t she like me, Mama?” The million dollar question. The thing is, I, from my vast playground experience, by now had figured out that she likes him and even wants to play with him but she has stuff going on that makes her want to do different things. But this isn’t a sitcom and they aren’t teenagers yet. Thankfully the wisdom in learning to let things be pays off and somehow Nadi has made some kind of peace with the fact that this girl, no matter how much he wants to be friends with her, will exhibit mixed feelings with him.
Last week, as we talk about going back to school and on being even more “big” now, he suddenly asks, “Do you think she has grown up now and is not so silly anymore?” So carefully masking any giggles or concern, I ask casually, “Silly? Why would you say she was silly?” “Because Mama, one day she would say I am your friend and the next day she would say no you’re not. Isn’t that silly?” “Umm yes, well that’s not very grown up. Maybe because she isn’t 5 yet?” Being 5 is everything to us right now. He nods wisely and says, “Yes, you are right, she is not 5 yet. But I am. We had my party na?” Playground relationships are messy, be warned.
Yes, this broke my heart a little, because I imagine it broke Nadi’s heart a little to not be friends with someone when in his life he thought all it took to be friends was to want to be friends. I wish I could stop this tide from starting- this ebb and flow of friends, heartbreak, love, disappointment that is going to come into his life. I pray all he finds himself surrounded with all is life are people who want to be around him. But secretly I am perversely relieved too, that my serious, sensitive, nutty, sparkly eyed little boy who has the capacity to be emotionally over-involved into his own processes of figuring things out, has managed to cross this tiny little starters hurdle on his own. I am happy, if heavy-hearted that this makes him a tinier bit more equipped for the stuff up ahead which will hurt and ache and pain as much as it will be exciting and growing and fun, but more than anything else, I feel useless because all I will ever really be able to do, is be there.