That’s not entirely accurate–Rory has friends at school, and she has plenty of kids her age who come over often and romp through our house for various family events and family playdates–but she has no friends of her very own, who would invite her and only her over for a playdate or…the ultimate…a birthday party.
Sam goes to birthday parties (he’s 8).
Lily goes to birthday parties (she’s 5).
Wyatt goes to birthday parties, and this is the unkindest cut of all. He is 4, and Rory is 4.
But the only birthday party she’s been to was one that Lily and Wyatt went to also. She has never been the one to come home with her bagful of candy and assorted themed toys and decide whether or not to share. She has never been the one dropped off with a big, glorious present, chosen by her, to a strange house filled with balloons and a pinata. And oh, she wants those things.
Barring that, she wants a playdate. Not a playdate at our house–no, she wants to be dropped off for a playdate all by herself. At Alex’s, or Miles’, or Ann’s or ANYWHERE. I would worry–have worried, in advance–that she would be afraid on some deep level that we wouldn’t come back but we’re almost at the year mark now, and apparently NOT. Last week she cried for 20 full minutes in the car because Lily had a playdate, and Wyatt had a birthday party and she had…nothing. (Not right then, or I would have taken her somewhere fun–these were distant plans that she just couldn’t compete with.)
And she is so sad. She gives us, instead, a regular litany of her friends in China–friends we don’t have, friends that are not ours, friends that would only invite us over if she asked them to: Bethany, Logan, Mitchell, ‘Cilla (Rory was raised at Hidden Treasures, an American-run foster home in Fuzhou, Fujian). But it doesn’t help, I know.
Part of me says, well, most 4-year-olds don’t get dropped off at friend’s houses. It only happens for Wyatt with one particular friend because he is only a week older than one of our neighbors and family friends’ son, and we do a lot of trading off of the boys–but adding Rory to that mix isn’t great, and wouldn’t count anyway. We don’t do the kind where Mom comes to hang out too unless all the kids are there. And we spend most of our time with families we’ve known since Sam was small–I’m not out there making new friends with the parents of kids in her class who don’t already belong to us in some other way. Those are all the normal reasons.
But I suspect there’s another reason, one that lies within her “other”-ness. I think people are hesitant–fearful that they might not understand her, or she might have issues, or a tantrum, or just be unpredictable in some way. And there are plenty of other little girls or boys to invite–“normal” ones, with no difficult speech or history. White ones, too, although I think that’s only a tiny part of the equation. I get that, I do. I think I might feel that way myself. Why not invite over an easier kid? Why not push your kid in a simpler direction–oh, yes, Rory would be nice, but what about so and so, or so and so? Rory’s family is weird, too–so many of them, and the mom works, and the older kid goes to that private school, and hey, why not cultivate a different relationship? Some family more like us.
Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I don’t think so. I’ve avoided friendships myself on weaker grounds. They’re four–they’ll push us in the direction they really want to go in soon enough. Why not keep things under control as long as you can?
Yes, I could make some calls–approach another mother, explain. I could invite a different kid over and hope the parent would reciprocate for Rory, and not for the others. I could try to fix this, and maybe I could put a band-aid over it for the time being…and that would help for now. But really, things are still new. There’s lots more change ahead in her classroom. New kids will come, Lily will be in elementary school next year and Rory, still in the preschool classroom she’s been sharing with her sister, will be four months older and clearer and more ordinary in everyone’s eyes, and even one of “the big kids.” The other kids like her at school. She gets along well when there are kids here at home–better every day. There was a time when half an hour of different voices and chaos would overwhelm her, and that’s gone. She’s still changing; we’re still changing. I think I’ll let this grow away on its own. For now.