To add to the list of things I never thought much about before becoming a parent, is the importance and skills involved in helping my children establish and maintain friendships. With kindergarten looming on Sam’s social horizon, I have been checking in with him lately on what he is comfortable with, and where he might like some help. (Preschool is great for teaching Sam how to negotiate the intricacies of friendships he already has, so we’re all about how to make new and lasting ones.) Luckily, Sammy has a natural facility in this arena. My job seems to be more of one of helping him practice.
For example on the way to soccer camp yesterday sounded like this.
Me: So when you see all these new kids today, how can you go about introducing yourself?
Sam: Hi. What is your name?
Me: Good start. Could you begin with your own name first?
Sam: Hi My name is Sammy. What’s your name?
Me: Great! And what happens when someone starts passing you the ball, or hanging out with you during snack time, and you forgot to ask each other your name? What can you do then?
Sam: Keep passing the ball. Or ask them for some of their food to share if I like it.
Me: Uh, sure. Can you think of a way to ask their name then too?
Sam: My name is Sammy, and I don’t know your name.
Me: You will be president one day!
At the pool later, after camp, Sam sees a boys who was just in camp with him. He jumps up and down and points.
Sam: Mom that boy went to soccer with me! He did! I know him.
Me: Fun! Can you invite him to come over and play with us?
Sam: Hey! Do you want to jump in the pool with me?
New Friend: Sure.
I smile and say hi, and then ask Sam what the young man’s name is.
Sam: Mom if you don’t know someone’s name, you can just ask them!
For Sam friendship 101 may also include discussions about adoption, race, and not having a dad. We might also need to cover how his athletic ability is both an asset, and something that can be difficult for some kids to relate to when they do not feel as skilled or able as he is. What am I missing? What are some of your own memories of making new friends? And what have been some of your parenting ah-ha’s around helping your young children learn how to initiate and maintain friendships?
In a post later this week, I am going to explore how friendships with other adoptees play a unique role in his life already. I look forward to hearing your stories there as well!
Lately I’ve been feeling like everyone thinks we’re a normal family. No one has said anything to us. We’ve been all cosy in our world of acceptance. Then our neighbour, 6, said. “Theo looks weird.” I just replied. “Why would you say something like that? That’s mean.” She just shrugged. Then the littlest girl, who is 2.5, said in her lispy way. Theo has brown eyes! (a fact) I just said, yes and what colour are you eyes? That was all fine and normal but I felt totally off-balanced by their remarks. And we live in a highly multiracial neighbourhood. These two families are super blondie blue-eyed. I think I have a post in here somewhere that leads to what your saying about the fact that he will have to weave in all these little details as he enters school and people will notice he does not look like us etc. He’s just so innocent right now.
That’s it–the innocence is something I remember only noticing after the fact. After a little friend told another little friend they didn’t want to play with him because he was brown skinned. I went crazy on the school, the teachers, the family. I wanted every family to receive a copy of “The Color of US” and the school to make a dramatic curriculum shift to address what I saw as evidence of rampant preschool racism. Sam was all of two and a half.
What your story reveals is not unlike Sam’s experience. Kids don’t know how to do different. Kids are all about being the “same” when they first get that kind of awareness developmentally. Thus the success of things like Silly Bands, and wanting Dora the Explorer on your pull ups! I wonder if/how parents can model the absolute joy of difference for starters–or would it even make a dent? Do adults know how to do different? Do we model it?
As always you have me thinking a lot.
One of the most upsetting things about playground issues and raising a black preschooler is when an adult instigates the racist behavior. My son is 4 and AA, and I am AA but our son’s father is CC (But wasn’t with us).
At a playground where we all play often, one day there was a mother with older kids–elementary school aged and a junior high school aged boy. My son ran to the kids to play and to climb a play unit that has slides and a jungle gym.
Mind you he was the only black kid there, but that wasn’t even a concern for us given it wasn’t a alot of kids there that day, and given that my son plays well and plays often with kids of many races and isn’t the only black child there when the playground is busy. We have had no issues with parents and their comfort levels in their child(ren) playing with my child.
I noticed the mother glaring at me but thought it couldn’t possibly being as all I am doing is sitting on the swings observing my child playing.
I noticed the kids not wanting to let my son climb the play unit to play (mind you they are older) so I played with my son on the play unit and told him not to let anyone block him from playing on the slides and such as its for all children to use.
I noticed the junior high boy taking my 4 year old son aside and telling him something I couldn’t decipher and saw the end result, my smiling son’s face fall and his eyes filling with tears and he quickly walked towards me.
That is when I got up and asked my son what happened. He wouldn’t say.
But he told his grandmother on the phone that the mother told her kids not to play with him. Her only offer of why was “because you don’t know his name”
My 4 year old is far less of a danger to a bunch of kids older than him, including one who was junior high aged. He is polite, smiles, runs and plays, doesn’t hit other kids, doesn’t shove, waits his turn in line climbing up the playunit.
I was furious.
There are times when a preschooler of color saying “Hi my name is…what is your name?” will not be treated right when its a racist parent around tellin her child not to play with him.
For the most part everyone at that playground is friendly and are okay with their kids playing with each other. This playground is very racially diverse. The parents are wonderful. My son continues to have fun at that playground….yet as his mama, I still keep an eye out for that mean mama who singled out my son. She could have left him alone and ignored him versus pointedly
glaring at me and then telling her kids not to play with him, because it encouraged her children to actively make the effort to be unkind to a much younger child.