“Are you excited to see your friends today?” I asked my daughter on the way to school the other day.
“Well, some of the kids in my class are my friends and some of them aren’t my friends,” she replied. “Do you get it, mom?”
Oh I get it, I thought. But do you get it?
It wasn’t but six months ago that being absent one day from school made my daughter worry that all of her friends would miss her. And to her, her “friends” were her entire class, teachers, very likely her entire school and the surrounding neighborhood. Like all 3-year-olds, she saw the world as a friendly, welcoming place full of people who wanted to know and like her. Back then, when we’d go to the park, simply touching the same sand pail as another child instantly bonded them as new friends that had to be pried apart, often while a good deal of tears were shed, when it was time to say goodbye. These declarations of friendship made my heart swell at the innocence of her age, at her kind and loving spirit and her desire to befriend the world. My heart would also break a little when I thought of the day in the not too distant future when she would learn that, in fact, everyone was not her friend.
I’m not quite sure when the shift occurred, but it was recent and it was sudden. She started this school year in September anxious to meet all of her new friends and see her old friends. But each day since, she has come home with stories of social cliques and kids being excluded. But we’re talking about a pre-kindergarten class…a class full of 4-year-olds! Not middle schoolers! I wasn’t quite ready for this yet.
On the days that the child comes home from school and seems sad as she recounts a story of someone not wanting to play with her or being mean to her, of course, being her mother, I want to make it all better. There’s a part of me that wants to wrap my kid in bubble wrap to prevent her from feeling anything remotely uncomfortable. But I know this would only hurt her in the long run. And my husband is always there to ground me in these situations.
“If we make too big a deal of it, she’ll dwell on it,” he says. “And if we explain it away and don’t let her feel it, then she’s not going to figure out all the social stuff.”
So when she complains about play yard cliques, we listen, we sympathize, we don’t overreact. We encourage her to play with kids who are kind to her and avoid the ones who aren’t and to always tell a teacher if someone hurts her physically.
And here we are, two months into the school year, and she is figuring it out for herself. Some kids are her friends; some kids are not her friends. And sadly, this is a lesson she needs to have learned before she ventures out into the world someday: Some people are friends; some are not.
We all learn this on some level each and every day. It would be glorious if we lived in a harmonious and peaceful world in which we didn’t need to make this distinction, but we do not. In this day and age, I think that’s glaringly obvious to us all. And if it wasn’t, the events in Paris last week have certainly made it so. Every now and then when my uber liberalism grabs hold of me and I start talking all dreamy-like about all the “haves” giving a small piece of their fortune to the “have nots” and solving all the worlds problems, my husband, the steadfast realist, reminds me this could never happen because it would require 100 percent buy in. So if one greedy asshole held out, the whole plan would fall apart. And let’s face it, there’s always one greedy asshole.
It’s best our daughter learn that lesson early and in age appropriate small doses. There’s always one greedy asshole. Not everyone is your friend. There are bad people who do terrible things. It is true. But, my love, listen to your uber liberal, dreamy mom for a minute: I firmly believe that most people are inherently good. And the world needs idealists. The world needs kindness for the sake of kindness. Love creates love. This is also true.