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About six months ago I began to realize that Simon was developing real friendships. It was a sweet development; one I looked forward to watching mature.

As it happens these friendships have matured, but in an almost bittersweet way. Sophie is still prominent on the scene, but he no longer gets to play with Leah every day (she’s a year ahead of him), and Veronica has left school for the near-term.

That leaves, of the ones we hear about, Gabrielle, whom I will forever think of as “the lick-ee”, and Ella and Jillian, two girls Simon likes but also worries about. With Ella, the worry centers around whether she will be in class on any given day. She’s been sick quite a bit (much like Simon was last year), she’s missed class for surgeries on her leg, and she’s a three-day-a-week student to boot. Simon doesn’t understand all of this, though; he just knows that Ella is his friend but that she’s not always around. So he worries.

Jillian is a source of concern for different reasons. As one of the youngest in the class and being new to care outside her home, Jillian cries more than the other kids. Simon notices all this crying and is disturbed by it. He’s afraid Jillian is worried or unhappy or hurt, and he wants everything to be OK. The teachers tell me, and I’ve witnessed myself, that if another child is terribly worked up, Simon reacts physically and often suffers in kind. This makes life a bit harder for him, but I firmly believe that empathy will serve him well in the long run.

And then there is Baron. Baron is also much younger than Simon. For much of last year, Baron was really still a baby. Then, right around his second birthday, Baron became a big brother. The combination of age and rank had a huge impact on him. It’s like he woke up six months older one day, decided it was time to become a big boy, and took Simon along for the ride. I began to think of them as the Butch and Sundance of the Itsy Bitsy class.

This year they are in different classes. I was disappointed to see this when the class rosters were posted, but I didn’t want to make a big stink about it. Now I’m almost sorry I didn’t. They adore each other and steal as much time together as they can. Simon still likes and talks about girls a lot, but he’s eager for same-sex friendships and has chosen Baron as his main man. On days when we drop Simon off at school before Baron arrives, it takes us a while to settle him into the room. But if Baron is there? We just point to him, watch Simon run over to him, watch the two of them scream and laugh together, and leave without his noticing. Or caring.

When we ask Simon about Baron, he tells us about chasing Baron on the playground and that “Baron is a funny boy.” I’ve even heard that the two of them are experimenting with boyish roughhousing on the playground. This week, I finally decided that this friendship was the real deal and asked the school director, Shary, if I could request that the two of them be together next year. She said yes, but I felt like I was asking for a special favor. Then the very next day she informed me that Baron’s teacher Melinda had gone to Shary to tell her that Simon and Baron are really close and should absolutely be put together next year.

Now I’m told it’s a done deal. I still wish they were together now, but it’s nice to have something to look forward to for next year. I also think it’s time that we have Baron over for a play-date so those two crazy boys can run around like mad, push each down, wield make-believe tools, and otherwise engage in little boy games.

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