When my son was pre-school age, he saw potential friendship in everyone he met. The idea of having a lot of friends appealed to him so much that he frequently said he wished he lived in town, instead of out in the country, so that he could be surrounded by friends. He assumed that every person he encountered could become his friend.
Since my husband and I weren’t inclined to move from our country home, my son made the most of his situation when it came to having friends. He thought of his sister, who was eighteen months older, as his friend. He thought of his cousins at family gatherings as his friends, even the ones who were already adults. He thought of the kids who went to the weekly library story time in town as his friends. He found friends among the kids of all ages that I left him with at his Sibling Care group – while his sister and I went to an early childhood class for four year olds and their moms. He thought of the policemen we encountered at Subway restaurant as his friends. The engineers who drove the trains through town were his friends . . . Friends were to be found everywhere, except at home.
My daughter was a wonderful friend to my son, but sometimes he felt like he needed more friendship options while living out in the boondocks. My son has always been a great problem solver and he found a solution to being a country kid yearning for a large circle of friends. His stuffed kitty became his best friend because she did everything he told her to. He sometimes expressed his appreciation for her friendship by swinging her by her tail and throwing her as far as he could – until her tail fell off. A yellow rubber ball with a smiley face became his friend. A giant fuzzy named Shuzz that came out of one of our sofa pillows became a constant companion. Mr. Rogers, on PBS, was a friend who came into our home every Monday through Friday for half an hour. My son’s dog, Ricky Licky, was a loyal friend, but they both grew tired of playing fetch outside pretty quickly and my son would wander off to find someone else to play with. He met his invisible friend, Teresa, on our swing set in our backyard. Sometimes Teresa was busy so my son would walk around our yard in search of other friendships. He became friends with lots of frogs and toads that he caught. I would often find my son on the doorstep introducing me to his latest friend, Froggy, Toady, Froggy Jr., Toady Jr. . . Those friendships were great, but would only last a day because I would make my son release them so they could “go back home to their families.”
One day, my son came into the house from playing outside and introduced me to his most interesting friend of all – Greeny. He was tall, and wide, and green, and very impressive for a blade of grass. And he did look friendly, so I could see why my son was attracted to him. My son asked me what grass likes to eat because he wanted to have lunch with his new friend. I said I was pretty sure that they liked dirt and water. So my son filled a glass with water. He sat down at the dining room table and stuck his new friend in the glass to drink until his thirst was quenched. Then he took him outside and stood him in the dirt until his appetite seemed satisfied.
My son played with his new friend all day. He pushed him on the swing and took him down the slide. Greeny was given a ride in the wagon. My son read a book to him. He watched television with him. He sang to him and cuddled with him. My son even went to bed with his new friend after brushing Greeny’s teeth. The next morning, my son woke up to find his new friend crumpled up and withered on the floor beside his bed. I braced myself for the drama that might ensue when he saw his friend in that condition. But, there was no drama. My son announced that his friend felt like going outside. So, the three of us went outside – me, my son, and his vegetative friend. My son gently carried his friend back to the edge of our property where he found him, stuck him in the dirt, and leaned him up against his “other friends,” where my son said Greeny wanted to play that day. Then my son and I went inside to have breakfast. I never heard mention of my son’s botanical friend again, but I’m sure that he carried their special friendship in his tender heart for a long time.
Since my son was so enamored with Greeny, I expect him to someday show up on my doorstep with someone tall and willowy, with a bit of an olive hue. I imagine he will introduce me to his special significant other he found – and I expect that she will be every bit as adorable as that blade of grass he once fell in love with.
I wish everyone could view life the way my young son did and treat each person as a potential friend – despite apparent differences.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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