October 12, 2003

my friend "son 1"

(I know this is a long entry, I'm very sorry, but nobody is making you read it... right?)

Every once in awhile you might see something in your kids that reminds you of yourself. That happened to me today while I sat and watched Sam.

We were sitting in the McDonald's play park area today. We had just had lunch. (2 happy meals, ketchup only, milk to drink; 1 extra value meal #1, diet coke) and while I was letting Son 2 chew on some fries, I sat and watched Son 1.

While I was watching him I noticed that he went from kid to kid, saying little things, trying to get them to follow him down the slide or chase him through the tunnels. He was looking for a friend. Now Son 1 is picky about a lot of things, but when it comes to his friends, it doesn't seem to matter what they look like or who they are. Normally it is the first kid that will play with him. (I have watched him do this several times.)

Most of the time it is a younger kid that he ends up playing with. He might start with the older kids, but they are usually too wrapped up in their own little worlds to take much notice of him. I will watch him bring up something small, about the slide or a tunnel, or maybe something that he has currently been playing with (like hotwheels or swords). After a few attempts, the kid walks away, while Son 1 is left alone. He will usually go down the slide a few times by himself, until he runs into another kid. Then the process begins again.

Sometimes I will see him try to join in with a group of kids. After being ignored and snubbed for a while, he will move on. Every once in a while a kid will take notice of him, and will play with him for a while, until they see something else and move on. Sam will follow the kid around for a little bit. The kid will usually act like he is an annoyance; usually what Son 1 is talking about is little and trivial, and might seem like silly talk to the kid. Eventually Sam gets the idea and begins to look elsewhere for friendship.

The parent in me wants to go over to those kids and convince them that Son 1 is a great kid and that they would enjoy playing with him. But the real loving parent in me knows that I need to stay out of the way.

Eventually he finds some small kid that is just as eager to find a friend as he is, and just as eager to enjoy the little, trivial, and silly things of their small existence in the play park. Then they will play together until something more exciting distracts the kid or the parent takes the kid away. Either way, I have yet to see Son 1 walk away from the newfound friendship (unless I make him because I am tired of sitting in McDonalds).

Once Son 1 finds a friend, he has a friend for life, at least as far as Son 1 is concerned. I have seen him, on many an occasion, get ignored or rejected by someone he was looking forward to seeing. It was someone that he would refer to as "...my friend, ___________." And once he was reunited with his friend, the kid would act like he had never seen Son 1 before.

He is still young enough to not feel too much the cuts and hurts of life. It seems that his young naive mind is still protecting him from the painful attacks of human existence. But it won't be long. Everyday that goes by his memory gets stronger, and his understanding level increases. I know that I have very young memories of this exact thing. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the many attempts to be friends with different kids, and the painfulness of those rejections.

Even though the years have changed me in many ways, I still think that I am just like Son 1 in this area. It was very interesting, watching myself, through my son.

Son 1 is one of my best friends. I hope that the things that interest him will never be too little, trivial, or silly for me. When the world rejects him, I want him to always know that he has a safe place with me. And I desperately want to point him to the friend, who although his ways are higher than our ways, is never too busy to stop and call us his friends.