A couple of weeks ago I received a voice mail from the mother of a classmate in my kindergartener’s class. She said that her daughter wanted to be twins with mine for Twin Day and the mom was hoping to coordinate outfits. As I listened to the message, I watched my two older daughters as they played a game together. My heart pretty much shattered, which, yes, is an odd reaction to this mom’s request. It’s just that I knew that there wouldn’t be a phone call from the mom of a kid in my older kiddo’s class making a similar request. I also knew my daughters wanted to be twins together, at least that’s what I thought. Was I supposed to let my younger daughter out of her plan to pair up with her sister so she could do it with a friend? While my 6 year-old is thriving socially, my 7 year-old is not. I’m having a lot of trouble accepting that my daughter just does not have many friends – certainly not any that want to be her twin.
If you had told me two years ago that my kindergartener would be “popular” (her teacher’s word, not mine) and had play date prospects lined up continuously, I would have laughed. Back then, my daughter was an anxious hot mess. She reminded me of one of those small yappy dogs that shakes all the time. We would run into a preschool classmate at the store and my daughter would turn pale and practically climb back into the womb. It was embarrassing and sad to witness and I always laughed it off maniacally and said, “She’s just having one of those days! Ha ha ha!!” before I dragged her off, out of sight, so she could breathe again. She hated interacting with children and it took time, patience, and let’s be honest, some professional help to get things under control. My oldest, however, was the opposite – friendly, talkative, and loved play dates.
My oldest has never had trouble with friends and that’s why this year has been so challenging. She had two “BFFs” in her first grade class but they were split up this year and initially my daughter was incredibly sad and missed her friends. I encouraged her as best I could by pointing out other girls she knows in her class from soccer or Girl Scouts. I was actually excited because there are so many sweet girls in her class and I just knew she would find that one special friend. But day after day I asked her about who she played with at recess and she would become sullen and withdrawn. “No one.” I had to change tactics and ask what she played but she was too smart and still replied, “No one and nothing.” I stopped asking altogether for several weeks, agonizing over this, until I finally broke down and asked her outright. Her reply devastated me.
“I’m by myself most of the time. It’s ok, Mom. I’m used to it.”
No, it is not ok. How is it possible that my sweet daughter, who is always described as friendly and kind and well liked, plays alone at recess? I immediately sent out an email to her teacher, who responded quickly and we devised a plan. While no one was banging down our door requesting play dates, my kiddo seemed a little happier. She was sitting next to a different girl in her class and began talking about her a lot.
It’s a delicate situation. My kindergartener wears half of a Best Friends necklace and is part of a solid group of girls in school. They play together, have play dates, and take classes outside of school together. I so, so want this for my older daughter, too. I know it hurts her to see the kinds of activities her sister experiences and she holds it in, albeit poorly. I recently checked in with my daughter, telling her that I was also talking to her younger sister about this (“When? When did you talk to her?” she asked me suspiciously), but that I wanted to know how things were at school and how her friends were. She said that she switched who she played with a lot; sometimes it was a first grader she had met, other times it was girls in her class for various activities like jump rope or chase. She still played alone occasionally. But she said she was happy so I had to hold on to that. The last thing I want is to make her feel like there is something wrong with her for not playing with other kids more often. So like I said, it’s delicate.
In the end, in regards to Twin Day, my kindergartener and second grader dressed as twins. As it turned out, many siblings in school did. Two days later, my second grader had a play date with a nice girl and they are planning another one soon. Of course the biggest news came from her teacher. Apparently, she had witnessed on several occasions within a week that other kids had asked my girl to play or sit with them and she smiled politely and said “No, thanks.” Upon hearing this, I had to laugh, as did her teacher. Here I am, stressed out because she’s not playing with others, and it turns out she’s refusing them? Maybe she’s shy and doesn’t know how to say yes or maybe, just maybe, she really just prefers her own company. In any case, as her teacher pointed out, she is confident and happy, which are obviously important. As hard as it will be for me, I’m going to let this go. Her teacher said she will work on friendship skills in class so I will put this in her hands for the most part. I’ll still set up play dates but I’m not going to push. When she’s ready, she’ll make friends.