I watched as this awkward lanky boy turned the red brick corner of the school, scanned the Kindergarten courtyard for safe faces and then made a b-line for Rhys. He approached quickly with eyes darting around, determined and unsure all at the same time. He abruptly halted right in front of where we were standing and lifted his hand, palm out, and greeted us. “Hello Humans!” I had to stop myself from letting a chuckle escape. This boy was so horribly nerdy with his too short sweat pants and Super Mario backpack. I looked at him with a smile and then looked at Rhys waiting to see what would happen. Clearly this child was trying to overcome some fears and make a friend. Rhys raised his eyebrows, said ‘hi’ and then turned slightly away. The boy took a step closer and greeted Rhys again. I got down to their level and asked the boy his name and if he liked space aliens. He gave me his name and with a smile said that yes, he did like space aliens. I told Rhys to introduce himself and then backed off to see what would happen.
It’s interesting to see your child learn how to make friends. It can be a little bit nerve wracking to be honest, but interesting none-the-less. Rhys had already made a few friends in Kindergarten, his closest being a little boy that shared the same birthday as Rhys. They both got birthday crowns on their first day of school which must have helped kick-start their friendship. According to Rhys the two of them play together all of the time. While I’m happy to see that Rhys has a few people that he’s gotten to know because the situations have warranted it but it’s totally different to step out and make a friend. It’s different to be intentional and deliberate about it. It’s much harder and I know this because I’ve gone through it.
I was curious to see how Rhys would deal with an awkward kid stepping out and trying to be Rhys’ friend. Within the few seconds after my boy had introduced himself and said that he liked robots I had high hopes. I had hoped that Rhys would then talk to the kid and make him feel welcome. Rhys ran away. He turned and ran to the opposite side of the courtyard to kick a ball around. The boy slumped his shoulders and walked to the school door waiting for the bell to ring. The thing is, Rhys isn’t sure how to make friends without someone else facilitating it. He’s still learning how to be social with people he doesn’t really know.
I called Rhys over and asked him if he’d like to go and invite the boy to play soccer. He sauntered over and asked and the little boy didn’t want to. I think his feelings were hurt. So I told Rhys, quietly, that he needed to include the boy. I’ve observed this boy a few times and he seems to be a bit of a loner. It seemed to me that he had a hard time opening up and now he was probably kicking himself for taking a chance. Rhys went and got the soccer ball and started kicking it to the boy. The first few times the boy angrily kicked it back and yelled for Rhys to stop it but I think that by this point Rhys had clued in. Rhys just kept on kicking it back to the kid and with each pass the kid got more and more into the game. He started to enjoy it and then started to play with Rhys, running around and having fun. Rhys’ other friends showed-up and now this awkward little boy was playing with a whole group of kids instead of sulking in the corner.
Last week I had an interesting encounter with an aspect of the public schooling system. All Friday afternoon my heart was burdened and heavy with wondering if we’d made the right decision putting Rhys into his community school. After some prayer and a long talk with James we both came to the conclusion that we’ve done the right thing. We feel that Rhys can be a light into his classroom and into the kids lives and I feel like this morning was an affirmation of that. I had to pull Rhys aside and give him some pointers, but that’s what I’m there for. My hope is that as Rhys grows up he will learn to be compassionate and inclusive. I believe that one way to teach him this is to expose him to people that are in need of these things and these people are right in our community.
By the time the bell rang for the kids to line-up and meet their teacher this little boy was included. He was still awkward and a bit weird but he looked so happy.