As an undergraduate I studied journalism. We weren’t allowed to use quotes in headlines; the rule was, “When the Pope says, ‘F**k,’ you can quote it in a headline.”
There must be some similar rule for all-capital blog headers. You come to my blog expecting a certain consistency: photos that conceal Martin’s identity, headers in initial-capitals only, maybe some italics but nothing fancy. If I start getting all wacky—curly q’s or design changes, exclamation points, politics, profanity, bold, all-caps—I risk the impression of level-headedness I try to maintain, right? Finding My Kid relies on words and the power of Martin’s journey, not typographic tricks.
Except today. I don’t have words big enough to express what Martin has done, so—
Welcome to the first time Finding My Kid is shouting a header at you:
MARTIN MADE FRIENDS.
We’ve lived in our suburban house for almost three years. The yards in our enclave are large, so although we have neighbors, they are not bumped up against us. We know the neighbors, as in, we know who they are. The teenager next door babysits for Martin. We wave at the others, chat occasionally in the street. (You caught us: Adrian and I are hardly social butterflies.) Martin, however, has never shown any particular interest in children who live around our dead end.
What I’m about to relay is second-hand, as told to me by Martin’s nanny, Samara. I can attest that Samara is guileless in her storytelling, a real just-the-facts-ma’am operative. I work in the City Wednesdays and Thursday, so Martin is with Samara. Last Wednesday, by her account, Martin asked to ride his bicycle after school. She agreed and told him to stay close to the house. Instead, he announced that he was riding to the neighbors’ house. Samara, who could hear the neighbors’ six-year-old twin girls (Martin is seven) playing in their yard, asked Martin to wait. Instead, he looked directly and mischievously at her, smiled, and raced across the street to the neighbors’ driveway. By the time Samara caught up, Martin was talking to the girls. He’d met these twins once before, when we participated in a volunteer project at their home. He did not manage, that time, to speak with them.
Samara checked with the twins’ babysitter, who said it was fine for Martin to play in their yard. Samara then returned to our house, within eyesight, to start making dinner. After ten minutes or so, she realized that Martin had disappeared into the girls’ house. She waited a while and then walked back across the street. The girls had other friends over, pre-arranged, and while one sister was playing with them, the other sister was playing with Martin. He stayed another 45 minutes or so. When he returned home, he was proudly carrying a knotted keychain the twin had made for him.
Thursday after school, Martin got off the school bus and asked to ride his bicycle. He rode directly to the neighbors’ house, and upon seeing Martin in their driveway, the twins came out to greet him. Samara again checked with the twins’ babysitter, who again gave permission for Martin to stay and play. The three kids ran around together in the yard for 30 or 40 minutes, until the girls had to go inside to work on their homework. Martin rode back home. To Samara’s surprise, after half an hour, the twins (homework apparently finished) arrived with their babysitter and asked to play some more with Martin.
Meanwhile, from my office in the City, unaware of these Thursday activities, I emailed the girls’ mother to thank her for hosting Martin Wednesday afternoon. She emailed back to say Martin had been a pleasure, that she was thrilled the kids were playing together, and that her daughters were at my house at that very moment.
According to Samara, the girls left our house around dinnertime, and asked if they could return on Friday. Martin has trombone lessons and a social-skills play group on Friday afternoons, so that wasn’t possible; Samara plans to arrange a visit this week instead.
Friday morning, Martin told me he was taking the knotted keychain to school. He wanted to show it to his classmates and tell them about his new friends.
When Martin was still acquiring language, sometimes he would use a phrase or idiom correctly, one time, and then those words would disappear, only to reemerge later with consistency; for example, he once answered a question with “I don’t know” but didn’t say “I don’t know” without prompting again for months.
On Sunday, four days after Martin made his twin friends, his class had a play date. Half a dozen boys showed up to run around a playground. Martin joined their chasing and pushing for a few minutes, then chose to climb by himself. I think he still gets overwhelmed in a crowd, even a small crowd of his own classmates. Later the same afternoon, back home, Martin saw a girl his age, a stranger, riding her bicycle in the street. Immediately, he asked to go ride his bicycle. Adrian, who went outside to supervise, reports that Martin was clearly interested in the girl but couldn’t bring himself to speak to her; even when Adrian and the girl’s father tried to introduce the two of them, Martin hung his head and looked away.
Martin has friends, arranged by me, with whom he plays regularly. Meeting the twins across the street, by contrast, marks the first time Martin has made friends. Based on the experiences Sunday afternoon, I would say that making friends is like saying “I don’t know” once was: Martin showed that he has the skill, and now the skill will disappear for a while before reemerging with consistency.
He just needs to gain some confidence and remember to use the skill he evidently now has.
MARTIN MADE FRIENDS.
This picture is not (completely) related to this post. But I am so excited that our cherry blossoms are starting to pop, and since we walk by this tree on our way to our neighbors’ house, I’m using that as an excuse to include the picture.