It is hard to imagine that just last year I was the mom on the other end of the line nervously sharing my gratefulness that another child wanted to play with my son. I wonder how many times I stammered over words to explain how much it meant to him (to me) without seeming like a crazy person to this stranger I hoped I wouldn’t scare away. It never occurred to me that the stranger would understand the magnitude of what they were giving. No one understands the value of friendship quite like the parent of a child without a friend.
Today the roles were reversed. Today I was the stranger.
I had sent out these invitations to a few kids in Tot’s class last week. One of the invitations I had messed up the date on and because I didn’t have any extras, I just drew a circle over the 7 making the 27th the 20th. Unfortunately, the parent thought that the original date (today) was the corrected date and I had to make the disappointing phone call. I knew how excited she must have been to get an invitation, so it kind of broke my heart. So instead of calling to just give the bad news, I asked them out on a play-date. She (like me not so long ago) told me how much that would mean to him, how he didn’t have any outside friends and how many times they would go to the park in the hopes of children to play with. I told her I understood, I used to go on the hunt for friends at the park for a long time. That last year, I was the one making the phone call to another mom.
“We’re a couple of misfits
We’re a couple of misfits
What’s the matter with misfits
That’s where we fit in!”
In fact, that’s how our little play group started. A few of us moms were talking one day at the Early Ed. building about how our kids had never really had a play-date and so we got our children together and then later we’d heard the same story from another mom and another mom and another mom. Our group grew with Tot in the middle. On his past birthday party it was the first time we had all the kids in one place since Early Ed ended, including the teacher who had brought all of our children together. At one point during the party I realized that I should really do something special with this. Instead of just having a park play-date here or there with one or two of the kids, I should be setting up group dates. It wasn’t just my son who needed all his friends together, but many of us really needed to be around supportive like-minded parents.
You see, each of the children have their own quirks. A few are non-verbal, some are bossy and defiant, others have their obsessions, but all of their differences work together.
Through Tot’s non-verbal cousin, he had learned to lead. He was always the follower in the group, tagging along behind one person or another, but with her he naturally stepped up. Although it was very difficult for him to initiate conversation with children, he pushed his comfort boundaries to ask her to play, to have her follow him or to show her all his toys. She had taught him to step forward.
From his little miss bossy princess, Tot learned the word no on his own. Sometimes she is like a force of nature, always in the lead and always extremely vocal. Tot never really had to come up with words because she would just tell him what to say. Being the utterly compliant child, he would do whatever she told him to. Then one day he said no. He’d never really pressed his opinion on anything and always did whatever anyone said for him to do, so this was a huge step for him. She had taught him independence.
Because of his very defiant friend, Tot learned about the impact of choices. He had chosen to follow him once when he ran away from teachers and learned that because of that, he missed out on snack time. The next day he had chosen not to and realized he didn’t miss out on snack time. It may seem like such a small thing to some people, but it made a big impact. Even this year at school when he didn’t want to do something the teacher had said he realized that by making that choice he would miss out on something. He had taught him to weigh decisions.
Tot’s little park partner taught my son to trust himself. For a very long time Tot wouldn’t climb, not like other children. Only two years ago did he learn to climb a ladder, a rock wall or anything really. Then one day he went to the park with his friend who loves to run away from his mom and saw him climbing to the tip-top of the spider webs. He had wanted to do it, but he wanted to do it on his own. After some very determined practice, Tot got the hang of it. His friend had taught him that it is okay to let go of us, we were still there to catch him.
“We may be different from the rest
Who decides the test
Of what is really best?”
I count myself very lucky to have such amazing kids in my son’s life, so I know how much it matters when other parents really want that for their children. The phone call today was just a reminder of how important it is for me to get a move on in making these play-dates happen with who I’ve started calling the “Mighty Misfits”. I wasn’t the first parent who wanted so badly for just one kid to play with and I will never be the last, but I can be the mom that makes a difference in the lives of those who do. Then maybe by next year this mom will be where I am when she answers the phone for a play-date.