It was easier when he was younger. I mean really, his “social life” was really the one I created for him. I was the one who organized the new moms baby group, made all the plans, kept us on a social whirlwind of singing classes and tumbling tots sessions. But of course, it was mostly for me. I needed to have other moms around.
Even in the early school years, playdates mostly happened when two moms decided that they wanted to have a chance to catch up. But that changes. When I was no longer needed to come along on the playdate, when it was up to the kids to make their own arrangements, I noticed that my kid was never asked.
When my son would ask me if he could have someone over, I would always dread having to ask the other child if he or she was “free,” watching their face as they struggled to make up an excuse as to why they could not make it this time. I know I overcompensated by having big blow out birthday parties and inviting kids out on fun excursions with us.
The school does all it can to help minimize this–no party invitations at school unless the whole class is invited, assigned partners to walk to the gym together, a “you can’t say, you can’t play” policy at recess. But as we all know, kids (and their parents) can’t help but overhear the details of weekend sleepovers in the Monday morning playground. I would feel my heart break a little bit each time this happened.
This year, my child started a new school, and entered adolescence. I am finding all the social stuff even harder–especially because I no longer have any control over it. In fact, I think he refuses to tell me the names of his new classmates because he secretly fears I might hunt them down and invite them over. He comes home straight after school, and there is no phone ringing, or texting or Facebooking going on here. It is really up to him to nourish those social connections now, and so far, he seems to be struggling a bit.
Or maybe not? Maybe it is just I who is struggling. He is a happy, healthy guy who does well at school, loves to read, has a big smile for everyone. Others tell me all the time how warm and interesting he is (I guess he saves it for others because at home it is a lot of grunting and ignoring, but I digress). Our expectations for our kids, created through our own experiences growing up and coupled with the cultural expectations we are blasted with everyday, often end up confusing us. I find it difficult sometimes to know how I actually feel about something.
Again, as I have had to do over and over in this job called mothering, I need to let go of what I think he should be doing, or saying and let him forge his own path. I need to believe that he is who he needs to be at this moment in time. Isn’t this the greatest thing I can do for him? Isn’t it?
AZS is a writer and mother of 4 in Toronto. Her choice to use only initials is to protect the privacy and dignity of her children. A longer version of her story will be published on Hybrid Mom, as part of a series on parenting the unpopular child. Please check out their series here.