Simone has started seeking out other kids on the playground to play with, often inquiring if they’ll be her friends. Sometimes it’s a simple “Will you be my best friend?” and then the awkward wait for a response. Other times she finds the other girls playing and stands next to them, waiting for them to acknowledge her. She’ll run when they run, stop when they stop.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more protective or anxious about anything in my entire life.
Usually it works out fine–especially if the other girls are a little older and want to dote on a younger pseudo-sibling. Every once in a while, Simone might not get a response, so she’ll stand for a bit before coming back to me. It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to point out I’m not nearly as entertaining. But I’d pay good money to know what she’s thinking in those moments. Whether it’s a matter of “hmm, I’ll just find someone else to play with” or if she feels worry that people don’t like her.
My anxiety, I think, stems from several areas. My own experiences as a kid, I’m sure. Good and bad. How different the world feels to me than what I remember growing up. Also, the way I see Simone–the way she seems to love so much–all offset by the potential for her to encounter a kid of the “cruel” variety. Someone who reacts to her in a hurtful way. As much of a reality as it is–and perhaps arguably necessary–I want to protect her from that sort of bullshit. Especially at a young age when she’s still working on her own personality. It requires physical restraint on my part to not interfere when she’s around other kids.
The other side is how lovely it is when she finds a group of kids to race around with for a while. If a child can experience pure joy–and they are certainly more likely to do so than an adult–then I believe I catch glimpses of it at these times. The way she watches what other kids do, sometimes acting in mimicry, but always her eyes full of delight. I almost don’t like writing about it, as I feel I’m reducing her experiences to precious sentiment.
A friend mentioned how she started teaching her daughter about introducing herself to other kids, maybe commenting on their shirt or hair, the ol’ “ice breaker” if you will. A good idea in my mind, and I’ve started encouraging Simone in that direction as well. Her voice is so small when she speaks to strangers, though–kids included. I’m not even sure what she’s saying to them yet.
The real rub is how as an adult, I am hyper-sensitive about what anxieties I project onto my daughter. I don’t do well in crowds, can count my close friends on one hand, and generally over-analyze everything another person says to me–trying to read their motivations etc. The irony is not lost on me when I watch Simone’s response to others, the immediacy of each moment–and how fleeting it is too. Her life right now, plotted out in increments of time and minute experiences. The bigger picture wholly unnecessary. Perhaps it is envy then.