I suppose all dads like to imagine that their sons are a lot like them. Tanner is not much like me.
“Ready for school?” I asked him in the morning before we heard the ferry horn in the bay, which is his signal to grab his lunch and book bag and race to the dock.
“Not,” he replied. “Can I stay home?”
He was in the middle of a drawing, and I know he always likes to finish his work.
“I think you’ll have a chance to finish your picture before we hear the ferry horn.”
“That’s not why I want to stay,” he replied. “I know I can finish later.”
“Then why, Tan?” I asked.
“No one will miss me if I don’t go,” he replied.
“Not your friends?” I asked.
“Nope. I don’t have any friends,” he said.
“Ah.” This gave me something to ponder. “Well, maybe today is the day that you will make friends, and you wouldn’t want to miss that!”
He agreed, reluctantly, to give it another try.
After he was gone, I pulled down a parenting book off the shelf.
Sure enough, there in the index: Helping Young Children Learn to Make Friends.
The ability to make and keep friends doesn’t just make kids happy; it also provides a number of crucial developmental benefits, including self-esteem, companionship and peer guidance.
Well, that sounded logical. I remembered back to a day in my childhood when Mãe let me ride the bus by myself to the park. I ended up in the Willow Creek Park. I met some of my best friends that day–friends that have lasted a lifetime, Miranda and Jake the Gardener.
Making friends has always come naturally to me. I don’t even think about it: Say hello, talk a bit, make a joke–we’re friends!
Of course, it’s not easy for everyone. Tia Berry, for example, had few friends besides Mãe and me. Jake became her friend, but that only happened through the years, after Jake practically adopted me as a nephew and started coming by nearly every day.
I remember Tia Berry saying that the company of most people didn’t beat solitude. She’d much rather spend an afternoon painting in the garden than meeting a prospective friend for coffee or tea.
Maybe Tanner is more like her.
I did a search online and found an interesting article: Kids Who Need A Little Help to Make Friends.
This actually sounded a lot like Tanner.
…there is also a difference between children who are shy and children who are simply more introverted and prefer spending their down time reading or drawing by themselves…
Dr. Rooney advises keeping things in perspective. “Kids need just one or two good friends. You don’t have to worry about them being the most popular kid in their class.”
Of course it’s OK for Tanner to have his own style when it comes to making and keeping friends. Just like Tia Berry, maybe one or two really is all he needs.
I finished researching just as I heard the horn of the afternoon ferry.
“How’d it go, Tanner?” I asked him. “Did you have a good day at school?”
“Everybody hates me,” he said.
“Rough day, huh?”
“Do you miss your old friends from the Willow Creek Center?”
“It’s not so much that I miss them,” he said. “It’s just that… it’s like when you’re playing a computer game, like team-kinda-game, and then all your troops get knocked off, and it’s just you. Just you and the monsters.”
“Sounds kind of lonely,” I said.
“Oh, it is,” said Tanner.
I suggested we do something about it right then. The ferry hadn’t yet left the dock, so we raced down the hill, hopped back on it, rode across the bay, jumped on the light rail, and before sunset, we were standing at the entrance to the Willow Creek Park, in a circle of friends we hadn’t yet met.
But we met them before we left. I grilled up some veggie burgers and the gardener and a few kids joined us. Tanner started talking about video games, and before we knew it, the kids were laughing, and Tanner was joking, and we were sharing supper with friends. As easy as that.