Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Hardest Job

There's nothing so gut wrenching as to have your child look at you and say "I just wish I had a friend to talk to". As a parent all you want to do is make this little life the best it can possibly be. You want to shield it from every bad thing, give it ever chance at it's hearts desire, and keep it from feeling any pain. So when your child looks at you and mirrors a feeling you've had yourself many times over, you would do anything to fix it.

My oldest son said that yesterday on our ride home from school after telling me he'd had a stressful day, and that having a good friend would have helped a lot. I had to try very hard not to cry while trying to talk him through this situation. Often I look at my kids and think that every quality that I don't like in myself I've sadly passed on to them. I've felt that they were dealt a poor hand in the genetic lotto of what they could have received from me.

The lack of friends, and the inability to make them is something I really hoped my kids wouldn't inherit. But sadly, one of them did. He's brilliant. Straight A's, miles ahead of his age in reading ability, athletic, funny....but a social mess just like his mother. The funny thing is, we aren't wallflowers. We will talk your ear off, and we've never met a stranger. We do pretty well in large groups even thought they make us nervous.

But one on one, or even small groups...forget it. We lack that part we need to fit in enough to form those tight bonds. I took a picture of him on "hat day". One day a year where they're allowed to wear a hat in school as part of spirit week. I'd venture that the majority of boys in his school opted for a baseball cap of their favorite team. My son sported a pink scarf, and grey fedora this day. I'm sure at lunch he sat with one group of kids, spent time with another in bad, and yet another at cross country practice later that day. But his best friend isn't in any of those things this year, so he never sees him. I did the same thing. I was the only girl who wore a cowboy hat and boots to school nearly every day. I sat with cheerleaders and the basketball team at lunch. I chatted about my favorite books with the other people who worked on our literary magazine, and I had one true friend. That was high school for me, and she lived on my street so we could see each other. My son's only in middle school. I blocked middle school out it was so awful.

I wanted to fit in and have a big group of friends. I wanted to be invited to parties, and have those big group pictures at the football games, homecoming dances, and weekend outings. I just didn't know how to be that person. I didn't know how to form those bonds with people, and I still don't. I still only have a few close friends, I almost never get asked to do anything, and when I do, I'm anxious about it.

So, I looked at him with my heart breaking for him not knowing at all what to tell him to do. If I'd been different in school, if I'd forced my way through those anxious feelings, if I'd conformed a little more to "normal" I might have those friends now. But, there are probably things I would have done in the process that I wouldn't have liked too.

I had no answers for him. It's a choice of changing some of who he is, to be less "weird" and more likable. Or staying who he is, and hoping more people come into his world that accept that. I lean toward the latter. But knowing what it still feels like after all these years, I had to give a small nudge for him to find someone with whom he shares something with, no matter how small, to forge a bond. I don't want him to change a thing about who he is, but I don't want him to miss out either.

It's the hardest job in the world.

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