"I don't ever want to go outside again," he yells at me. It's a gorgeous day, and we've got a playground within shouting distance of our building. He can hear the kids laughing and screaming out there. All those kids, friends with each other, none of them friends with him. I know it seems that way. "We've got to get out there if we want to meet new people," I insist.
At the playground, he hands me a light saber. "Why don't we find another kid to play with?" I suggest. Mommy is old, and tired of playing Star Wars. The place is crawling with kids, after all. Many of whom are eyeing our light sabers with great interest.
Henry shakes his head. "I only play with my family," he insists. But he's watching an older boy, a charismatic type being chased by a young girl, possibly his sister. I can see the mechanisms whirring. Willing to play with younger kids. Likes to be chased. I like to chase. "I'm going to ask him to play," he whispers to me, but just as he approaches, the kid takes off abruptly with his dad. It looks to me like they're just taking a restroom break, but even after they return a few minutes later, Henry never tries again.
It's hard to make friends. You want to rush things. In a way, I'm jealous of Henry. I miss the days when you met someone and because you both liked the same things (Barbie? Swings? Creative nonfiction?) you were instant friends. All it will take for him to make a playground friend is eye contact with one kid, just one, someone to run around with. But he keeps his eyes on me. I want to tell him he doesn't know how easy he has it. As if that would work.
So I take matters into my own hands. There's a boy who seems to be around Henry's age playing near us. "Are those Ben-10 sneakers?" I inquire, and the boy nods and starts to list his favorite Ben-10 characters. Henry rolls his eyes violently. "I already know about that," he says, and takes off down the slide. The boy and I watch him, and we shrug at each other. Kids. What can you do. Meanwhile, Henry is eyeing a group of boys playing ball with each other. Boys who are way too busy doing their thing to notice the straggler in their midst. Oh, Henry. But of course I do the same thing. Why does this person want to be my friend so badly? Is there something wrong with her? On the other hand, what's that group of cool-looking parents over there, and how can I talk to them? I can't. God, I'm lame.
It's hard. I know it will get easier. But I still hate this part.