Monday, June 6, 2016

Strategic Friendship

I've always worried about my son's social skills.  He's an only extrovert growing up in a house full of introverts, after all.  Larry and I can go days without speaking, our noses in a book or at the computer, and we are content.  Zane would talk to grass if it would answer back, and gets irritated if there's no one around. 

I sometimes get to observe my son in his natural habitat, otherwise known as school, when there are schoolwide events.  I mostly hang back on these occasions and just let action unfold around me, because that's when the magic happens.  For example, I noticed both kids and adults approaching one student, George(not his real name), a boy in Zane's class.  George spent a great deal of time, hugging, smiling, and otherwise engaging with a great variety of people.  It's FERRIS BUELLER!!!! I thought to myself, because I think thoughts like that. 

"George, is there ANYONE here that you don't know?" I had to ask after the fifteenth person came running up to greet him.  After all, you usually don't see such happenings with an eight year old kid.  George never missed a beat.  

"Apparently not," he said. "I'm popular."

Popularity is something that I have little experience with, admittedly. It's never been important to me, the weird kid at the back of the room. I turned to watch Zane, content to run around with his little group of friends.  None of them seemed to mind that George had to stop and chat with everyone.  They weren't going to gather around him like an entourage, however. Zane and his friends went on about their business, and George caught up when he could. 

Zane left the group at one point, while his friends were shooting hoops  I finally noticed my son talking to the policeman hired for the day.  The officer was smiling.  Zane appeared genuinely interested in the officer's baton, his taser, his gun, and whatever other odds and ends officers keep in their belt.  And the officer seemed to love it, because they talked for about fifteen minutes.  The guy was still smiling as Zane returned to our group, and I realized that Zane had made a friend.

While Zane's friend George could be compared to Ferris Bueller, my child is more strategic in his friendships.  I used to do the same thing.  As an Army brat and perpetual new kid, I always made an effort to befriend the adults around me.  In a kid's world, adults are the ones who get things done, who make things happen. It's in a kid's best interest to take an interest in the adults around him. Especially those adults who might not be used to getting positive attention from anybody, let alone an eight year old kid who is truly interested in the people around him. Making friends with the adults around me helped me adjust more quickly to a new school and my place in it.   

Zane loves the librarian, and she loves him right back.  The second he walks into the library, he calls out "Hello, Ms. F.!", and you can tell that she doesn't hear that very often.  She lights up.  The two of them share a love of books that not many kids can bother with, these days.  My son appears to have made an effort to cultivate that relationship, just like his mother.  He's also made friends with the receptionist, the school nurse, the counselor, and the principal. I've seen them all light up when my son enters a room.  He's comfortable, and I like that.

Popular is fickle.  I don't care about popular.  Zane seems to care less about being popular, and more about the people.   Oh, that might change, as he gets older.  But for now, I'm feeling a little glow of pride in my son.  He's learning to make his way in the world.


  1. What I love most about this post is your quiet observance of your sons interactions with others. It is not often that we can do that but it's beautiful.

  2. Popularity is completely overrated, for sure! I like the way that you observed your son and allowed him to "do his thing" without trying to interfere or re-direct him. You are letting him be his own person, and he sounds like a great kid :)

  3. I love reading between the lines to your own relationship with your son. To just observe means you're content to let him learn about the world on his terms rather than yours. Well done, Mom! 😄

  4. Beautiful. I think I was like that one point of my. I was so uncomfortable with silence. I would just talk for the sake hearing some noise

  5. What a wonderful boy he is. I loved how you started by saying he is different and then towards the end how much similar you both are.

  6. Zane sounds like one smart cookie! And I genuinely LOL-ed at the Ferris Bueller comparison! What I think I like most about this piece, though, is your voice. You conveyed perfectly the idea of observance without involvement. A lot of writers make the mistake of inserting themselves into something they weren't really a part of. You did not. Great piece!

  7. Comfort with people for who they are and how they make you feel goes so much further than seeking them out for popularity. He must be so much fun to watch!


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