Roa has a new best friend at school. His name is Caleb. He makes Roa laugh. The teachers say they like to run together… Roa, using his gait trainer, in hot pursuit after Caleb in the gym or on the playground, laughing and yelling the whole way. They also like to hold hands… Caleb gently taking hold of Roa’s hand which is usually fisted in excitement. Caleb is accepting. He is young and nonjudgmental. Roa is his buddy regardless of how he walks or the fact that he doesn’t sit for long on his own without tumbling over. Roa doesn’t talk to Caleb, but Caleb doesn’t mind.
Good friends are hard to come by. We all have entered into new social situations- new schools, college, new job, new family, – and have felt like the odd man out. It is not a good feeling and definitely one you don’t wish upon your child at an age when relationships are starting to be so intriguing and important. It is around age four that children start forming those bonds in pretend play and active times. They begin having peers that they decidedly prefer to hang with. Roa is close to that age and it is frightening as a parent.
Just has we all have been in situations that are new, most of us can recall that one certain friend who reached out to us. I recall two such friends in life. First, there was Becky Pierzina. In my school growing up, children were sent to preschool who were at risk for troubles in Kindergarten. Being beyond shy with people and PAINFULLY bashful in new situations, I went to preschool to work on those social skills. Becky was the one girl who reached out to me. Playing in our make-shift fort under a table in the classroom, I remember giggling and watching Becky in awe with her chatty, outspoken way. I learned a lot from Becky.
In my adult years, I remember entering my first job as a teacher in Black River Falls, WI. I was so nervous about this new position working with young children with varying special needs and their families. Socially, entering a teacher position is like being a new kid in the class. Teachers are quick to establish cliques and are not open to accepting “newbies”. Finding a friend is hard. Barb Kolb was that one teacher who reached out with open arms. Barb was enthusiastic about meeting new people and her job. She was not shy about speaking her mind or showing you that she also valued your thoughts on subjects. Barb showed me the ropes at Forrest Street Elementary. She introduced me to everyone and let me form my own opinions of the school climate. She took me out on the town to have a few beers and unwind in that little close-knit town. I learned a lot from Barb as well.
As Roa enters the years of friendship bonds, I hope he has the same mix of positive and negative social experiences that I had.
Why wish the negative upon him , you ask?
Well, the Beckys, Barbs, and Calebs of the world give you warm fuzzies - feelings of acceptance, pride in who you are, and the ability to find good in others even if they differ from you. But the negatives that I have experienced in the social aspects of life- the bullies, the unyielding cliques, the insecure sect who point fingers and shun those who stray from the norm- from them, I learned that it is not my job to make people like me. I can only be myself. You’re sad to be judged, misunderstood, unaccepted, but you move on to have rich relationships with Beckys, Barbs, and Calebs.