As parents, there are many points in our lives when we feel saddled with needless worry regarding some tiny aspect of our child’s development. From the day they are born we have a vision about their evolution into adulthood and those little buggers do all they can to deviate from that carefully planned path just to drive us crazy. They don’t walk as quickly as the other toddlers, they can’t pronounce their l’s or their r’s, they are afraid of the movie theater, they won’t give up their binky or blankie. And it’s all you can do NOT to lie awake at night picturing them 10 years from now in their college dorm asking their freshman roommate if he wouldn’t mind “leaving the wight on because I’m a wittle afwaid of the dawk.”
For Noah, I was worried for quite some time that he would have no friends. It wasn’t that he was socially awkward; he just had no interest. This was a reality that became apparent once he started kindergarten and play dates were initiated by the children rather than the parents. There was never a child who he sought out as a freind; nor (did it seem) as if he was sought. At recess he would play on the monkey bars by himself, mastering the back and forth swing day after day. I became quite concerned; he remained completely oblivious and actually quite happy. As he grew, he spent time with different kids but didn’t connect to just one child.
He didn’t have a best friend. And because I had a best friend growing up, his lack thereof continued to concern me. But more than one person offered the wisdom that perhaps this was MY issue and not his. And they were right. I just needed to remind myself to look at my son and see that he was happy the way he was — even if it wasn’t the way I expected him to be. After a while, I stopped worrying about his friendships and after awhile, Noah made some friends – and good ones at that. But I hadn’t thought about this particular hand-wringing marathon for a long time – until last night.
Last night was one of the most fun nights we’ve had in our house in quite some time. Noah had a science project due which involved video taping a cooking session using the metric system. The students could pick their partners and we found three of Noah’s closest buds in our kitchen ready to work. After hours of hard work capturing their culinary and metric skills on film, they had pizza and an epic Nerf gun fight, leaving our house tired and happy.
Over the last year or two, these faces have become familiar ones at our kitchen table, in our playroom, and on our sofa bed. It is a rare weekend that one of them does not spend the night – or Noah is not at their houses. There is easiness to their interactions which are inevitably full of inside jokes, teen vernacular, and light-hearted ribbing. Beyond these three boys, there is a core group of go-to kids who Noah calls his friends – and they are nice kids with nice parents and truly a pleasure in every way.
I never had any reason to worry.
I wanted to share this rambling realization because I still have conversations with like-minded parents who are worried about their kid not adhering to some path that was drawn long ago without their permission. The lesson I’ve learned is to stop drawing those paths for your kids because it will make you crazier than being lost on a dark road without directions. Our time is better suited following our kids as they make their own paths, staying just a step or two behind. From there, we are best positioned to watch them without getting in their way but still be arms length away to catch them if (and only if) they fall.