When things were hardest for Helen, one of my greatest fears was that she would not have a friend. Ever. Unable to consistently be close to even us, it seemed unlikely. Impossible, some days.
So we got to work. Social cues, facial expressions, practice, practice, practice. And it payed off. Over time, there were children whose company she enjoyed. People she called friend. But to be honest, I was always there, Quietly redirecting. Choosing the ideal times and friends who were kind, who tried to understand. Then she started Preschool. For the first time, she was on her own. One morning a week, she set out. And I prayed and held my breath until she came home. But its been so good. She calls the other children friends and her teacher assures me she’s managing just fine.
Then, of course, it happened. She came home upset and refused to go back. “Jack”, a little one in her class, had growled at her. A lot of times, momma. And I do not like him. Not anything unusual for a little boy, but it was a great offense to Helen. It’s hard enough for her to understand typical behaviors, anything unexpected is too confusing. We talked (and talked) about all the things she could do; walk away, tell her teacher, play with another friend. How important it was that she be a good friend (in other words, reminders on no hitting, biting, etc.). Preschool day rolled around and we were both reluctant.
Please let this be OK.
And it was. She was all smiles when I picked her up.
How was your day?
Good! I played with Jack.
You did? I thought you didn’t like Jack.
I don’t. I was practicing being a good friend.
Good for you! What did you play?
Well, bears. Fine. Relieved that it all seemed to work out, I moved on. It was much later in the day when I realized I’d almost missed it.
Bears growl. Like Jack.
Ignoring all my socially acceptable suggestions, she found a game Jack could play just as he was.
And isn’t that what we all want? Someone who will come along with no expectations or demands. Someone who finds a game we already know how to play.
Once again, she is teacher and I am learning. As for being a friend, I think she’ll be just fine.