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Bittersweet Playdate

If there’s one thing lacking in Simon’s summer, it’s boys. I’m not talking about a boy at camp here or at a soccer clinic there, we’ve got those. I’m talking about a consistent group of boys for him to be best friends with.

This issue has been brewing somewhat for the last six months or so, when his one friend, Braylon, started missing a lot of school, and he and his other friend, Baron, began to drift apart. The increasing seriousness of the boy shortage in Simon’s life was put in stark relief for me last night, when we had a soccer and dinner play-date with his spring soccer buddies (and brothers) Quinn and Wyatt. The boys played ball, laughed, grabbed each others faces, chased, tumbled down the slide together, screamed, and generally engaged in boy mayhem. Simon loved every minute of it.

Then the play-date had to end, which made Simon sad. And then I had to explain that Wyatt and Quinn were moving away in one short week and we might not see them again, which made him burst into tears. To make matters worse, my attempts at consoling words rang hollow. I can tell him until I’m blue in the face that he’ll make new friends, but his experience is that boys are short on the ground (school) and/or short-lived (camp).

This summer Simon has gotten just enough of a taste of what it would be like to be surrounded by compatible boys that it’s increased his sense of wanting. There are the boys who sometimes appear at his Grandma and Papaw’s house, the grandchildren of their friends and neighbors. There are the boys from camp, two of whom have befriended Simon and then shown up for a second session to extend the fun. One or two familiar faces tend to repeat at tennis camp. But that’s about it, and the “it” doesn’t last nearly as long as Simon would like.

Then there’s the attention and interest issue. We have yet to find a child who will play outside in the heat for as long as Simon will. When I say that Simon will play soccer or tennis in 95-100 degree weather, I’m not exaggerating. He plays until he’s drenched with sweat and half-sick from dehydration. Nor does he grow bored with it. So here I am with a kid who wants to play ball for hours at a stretch and who has the attention span and endurance to pull it off, and the closest match I can find in this regard is cousin Ben, who is four years older and still wilts a bit sooner. (Or, alternatively, has better sense!) I have also failed to find a peer who will play the same light saber game, board game, card game, etc. as long as he will. The best we do is when it comes to make-believe role-playing, something that his close girl friends are wonderfully inventive with and can sustain for hours.

All of which brings me to the realization that the likely cure for Simon’s social ailment is but four short weeks away: kindergarten. The days will be long, and I’m sure he’s going to be tired and will miss some of the comforts of home. But just think of all those boys! Probably 10-12 in his class alone. That’s five to six times what he’s had before. That’s enough to–I hope–find one or two or three that he really clicks with, spend six and a half hours with them five days a week, and continue the friendship for up to six long years. If I get the teacher I asked for, he’ll even have a (grown) boy in charge of his class.

I’ve spent months and months wondering if Simon was ready for kindergarten. Yesterday was the first day it seriously occurred to me that he’s not just ready for it; he needs it. That and a competitive, year-round soccer league. I’m on the case. Bring on the boys!

One Response to “Bittersweet Playdate”

  1. blg says:

    Insightful post. I predict (from afar) that Simon will take to kindergarten like a fish to water.

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