Friends in new places

FriendsIt’s not easy being the new kid in school. We knew that before we moved, but our kids are young and we figured they’d adapt.

My daughter is six and in kindergarten. At her old school in Seattle, she had a group of about fifteen friends, including a best friend. Right before we left, we threw a birthday party for my daughter and invited all of her friends. She had eleven guests, and they all got along so well. Their parents told me how much their daughters liked mine and that we’d have to have some play dates.

Well, we left all of that behind when we moved. When my daughter started school in Maryland, we were impressed by the academics, but we didn’t hear too much about friends. Although my son asked daily to go to his old preschool (my God, the guilt!), he made friends right away. It’s easier to adapt when you’re three, I guess.

After a few weeks, my daughter did start to talk about some of the girls in her class – two, to be exact. It sounded like she was starting to bond with these girls. We were relieved, and we sent out some invitations for play dates, but nobody responded. The parents didn’t know us, I rationalized, so they were hesitant to send their kids to our house.

After about six weeks, my daughter got a party invitation. I accepted right away, happy that someone had included her.

In the weeks before the party, we started to hear stories from the wilds of kindergarten. My daughter told us that she thought Brooklyn was her sister, until the girl told her that she was fat and ugly so she didn’t want to be her friend, and she decided she was sisters with another girl. I knew she was hurt and I asked about her other friends. “They all think I’m ugly,” she said.

“But what about Liza?” I asked. Liza was one of the two girls my daughter had talked about.

“She’s with Brooklyn. She said I’m hideous.”

“What about Olivia?” the other girl she’d talked about.

“She thinks my teeth are ugly.” My daughter’s missing two front teeth.

Naturally I was concerned but I was also a little suspicious. A girl from her drop-in daycare had called her hideous a few weeks ago. What are the odds that two unrelated six-year-olds both have “hideous” in their vocabulary? My daughter’s always had a flair for the dramatic, so I didn’t know what to believe.

When the party came around, I couldn’t wait to go. It was important for both of us. I’d meet the parents so we could plan some play dates, and I’d see how my daughter interacted with the kids.

On party day, we pulled into the bowling alley parking lot and she said “Is that Olivia? Hey, that’s Olivia! Can I go see her?”

“After we park, you can see her.”

“She’s going inside! Stop the car! She’s going inside!”

“She’s going to the same party that you are. You’ll see her inside. Relax.”

“She’s going in!”

I parked the car and my daughter jumped out before I could even get to her door. Clutching the gift in one hand, she grabbed my hand with the other and dragged me inside. I was barely able to lock the car. We walked in and saw the birthday boy. “Hi!” my daughter said, “happy birthday!” He seemed happy to see my daughter.

We got to the lanes and she spotted Olivia. “OLIVIA! OLIVIA!” Olivia turned around, smiled and came to talk to my daughter while I went to get her bowling shoes. The girls wanted to bowl together so the host mom put them in the same lane. They sat next to each other and chatted while they waited their turns. Those girls spent the whole party together. I exchanged phone numbers with Olivia’s father.

A couple of other girls came in and my daughter greeted them. They seemed really happy to see her. At cake time, I talked to one of the other girls’ moms. “Sophia talks about your daughter all the time,” she told me.

Really? And here I was worried that my daughter wasn’t making any friends. I loved Sophia’s mom and I gave her our phone number. Sophia has a brother my son’s age. We had the makings of the perfect play date.

I felt a lot better about my daughter’s social life after that party. She was well-liked, and it looked like she was making one close friend. And on the way home, she told me that her teacher had moved her seat close to Sophia’s. Excellent.

The very next day, we ran into another girl from school at the mall. She and my daughter chatted for quite a while as I talked with her parents. After they left, I asked my daughter who the little girl was. “Brooklyn,” she said.

“I thought you said that Brooklyn was mean to you.”

“Yeah, but she decided not to.” Huh.

When my daughter went back to school that week, Brooklyn was mean to her again. “It doesn’t sound like she’s a very good friend,” I said. “Stick with the friends who are nice to you.”

Although I’m a little concerned about Brooklyn, I’m no longer concerned about my girl making friends. I’ve learned that kindergarten is like Play-Doh. With the touch of a hand, everything can change in an instant. I would like to hear a more accurate representation of school from my daughter, but I won’t hold my breath.