The girl in the dinosaur costume holding my son’s hand in this picture is breathtakingly pretty now. (this was taken 5 years ago) For me however her beauty is marred every time I watch her body language move to physically exclude my son from her conversation with two other boys. The three of them have decided after six years, my son is no longer worthy of their friendship. In Kindergarden he invited his entire class to his birthday, now he finds himself without friends his last month in a school that used to pride itself on “community”.
I picked his school based on that, on the promise of a place outside of home in the world where he was known and loved. The kindergarden teacher who posted Langston Hugh poems on his wall. The promise of a teacher that would inspire him in 5th grade. Well, I got the two teachers anyway. IN the middle, I learned the rest is a hard thing to maintain. My son picked his closest friends early and stuck with them, never gathering new ones. Easy to become friendly with their parents at first, harder when differences start to appear. LIke when I take my child out and homeschool rather than deal with a burnt out teacher unable to keep order or teach. I had to encounter the mother of his best friend everywhere who never failed to tell me about how her Ethan begged to be homeschooled too but she just couldn’t do it. (She never invited my son to her house for a playdate once, always me asking her. Hmm, think she liked me personally? Me neither, dunno why. I can only say I always tried my best to be polite and helpful to her.)
I will always be grateful to the school for being there to welcome my son home to American life after seven months in Asia. But we returned to a much different school, one where many of his friends had fled to other schools, unhappy with the changes happening. The passion I once had for participating in the parent culture evaporated and I wanted to be there as little as possible. I hoped this wouldn’t affect his friendships but am unsurprised it did.
I tell my son there are some good reasons his friends are excluding him. He is in fact very different from them. He has spent time living overseas, travelling rough places where no one speaks his language or eats his food. He’s given fruit & money to beggar kids his age, their bodies twisted with polio. He dislikes first person shooter video games and after taking him to the WW2 memorial museums in Nanking and Hiroshima I couldn’t be prouder of his dislike of violence, even the pretend kinds. He shows compassion and empathy openly to a degree I hope never goes away. Whereas his three remaining friends hope to all attend the same mediocre public middle school everyone else goes to, my son will go to a new school across the Bay with a handpicked student body. Every family coming there is committed to using the best methods available to teach & inspire kids. I see how competitive it will be out there for my children. I want them prepared for anything, I don’t dare waste three years of his childhood in a struggling public middle school with no vision.
Only four weeks to go and his acceptance and understanding of the situation slays me. He would be friends with those kids again in a second if only they would grow up just a little. I’m not holding my breath but that’s MY pessimism talking now. They could surprise me. Meanwhile, my son looks forward eagerly to meeting new boys and starting over brand new at last.