FIRST of all, let me be clear – my child is happy, well-adjusted and doing OK. Great report card and this adorable kid comes home from school happy most days. This blog post is about motherhood and the struggle we go through trying to give our kids not just a good childhood, but a freaking awesome one, and the things we do to ourselves in that endeavour. There were two birthday parties this weekend that my child was not invited to. So naturally that started me off on a fretting frenzy. Can I help my child make friends?
Why wasn’t my child invited? Well, obviously the birthday kids didn’t feel close enough to ask my child. Why not? Well, maybe they don’t play together very often at lunch time and at this age that tends to be the deciding factor. I don’t know in either case, how many children were invited, and that doesn’t matter to me. I also am not one of those mothers who thinks the whole class should be invited to a birthday party. I think once you get past five years of age, kids are old enough to decide who they want at their own birthday party. And I don’t bear the birthday children in question any ill will – or their mothers. This is not about that.
A Mother’s Worry
This is about me worrying about my child’s ability to make friends. This child of mine, unlike the other two, is introverted when in public. This child is shy and doesn’t love publicity.
We want our kids to have a happy childhood where every day is filled with fun and laughter. But if they don’t have that, can we mothers really do anything about it? Can we help our children make friends?
Marathon, Not a Sprint
Over coffee this morning, I got a bit teary about the thought of my child missing out on these two birthday parties and not having any friends to play with. My husband, himself an introvert who has chosen not to collect a vast array of friends around him, reminded me of the bigger picture. Our child is bright, resilient and happy. In adulthood none of our children will struggle to make friends and everything will be OK in the long run, he comforted me.
A Case of History Repeating
OK, sure, but what about right now? A friend-less childhood can traumatise someone, distort their personality and leave them stunted emotionally. I struggled to make friends at school and spent many a lunch hour in the library. I remember the pain of coming in after lunch and the other kids in my class were red-faced and laughing from an hour of fun and games, while I had spent the hour alone reading The Hobbit. I felt left out and I didn’t know how to change it. I don’t want that for my child.
On the other hand, if my child is happy coming in after a lunch hour spent playing chess in the school hall, then that’s OK.
Bros and Best Buds
I need to allow for the fact that my child is wired differently to me and may not draw support and strength from having lots of friends around, as I do. Unlike me, my child gets all the support and love from family. There is little need for making additional connections. My two sons proudly declare they are each other’s best friend and they tend to share each other’s friends, travelling as a matched pair. This has meant one of them hasn’t had to do much work forming friendships, just mooching off his brother’s efforts.
My Kids, Not My Clones
I will always want popularity for my kids. I will always want them to be well-liked and well catered to in the friends department. I can’t help it. It’s how I see childhood – that time in your life when you knock around with friends and have lots of fun all the time.
I need to get it through my head that even though I made these children, they are not replicas of me and their personalities are different to mine. What I want for them is not necessarily what they want for themselves. As long as they are *choosing* to not have a big collection of friends, then all is OK.
Is Something Missing?
My fear is that my child doesn’t know how to make the connections of friendship with peers. What if my child *wishes* to have been invited to these two birthday parties but wasn’t? How do I address that? How do I teach my children that friendships are important and more importantly how to form those friendships?
Can I help my child make friends?
I don’t know if it can be taught. I think you have to let them figure it out for themselves. I guess I don’t think I can help my child make friends. Sadly. I think maybe, all I can do is support my children and teach them resilience and how to have fun. Is that the best we can do as mothers? Is that what a good mother would do here?