Monday, September 23, 2013

If You Build it, They Will Come

Ninja warrior training course erected.  And, the neighborhood kids have begun flocking to our yard to climb on it.  Let's just hope the HOA keeps out of our hair.  I wonder how long it will take before someone complains about a rope course in front of the house.

This small influx of kids to play in our yard has encouraged my kids to spend much more time outside.  Since I've taken Kaio out of school, I've seen him nervous about being around other boys and girls.  His posture changes in the presence of kids playing: he slumps his shoulders and diverts his eyes.  Even at classes with other homeschoolers, I've noticed major apprehension to get close or talk to other kids.  I know he wants to be able to talk to the kids and joke around, but doesn't feel confident.  It's sad this has happened so young, and I'm not sure why.  I'm not sure if he was like this in school and that's why he didn't want to go anymore, or if this is a new development since he's been away from a consistent social group.

Part of the drama with friendships and kids has been around our across the street neighbor, a boy who is only a year and a half older than Kaio.  They used to play together years ago, but since school began, the neighbor does not invite Kaio over or come over to play.  Sometimes there will be kids playing in his yard, and Kaio will walk over, only to be told that he can't have anymore kids over at his house.  

This summer Kaio tried to talk to me about it, with difficultly explaining himself.  They both attended a nearby Vacation Bible School for a week.  Kaio stopped me on Wednesday before we entered the church and said, "Sometimes John (not real name) knows me, and sometimes he doesn't know me."  I attempted to give him some other words to help, "Yes, sometimes John pays attention to you and sometimes he ignores you."  

It became one of those moments of me trying to explain something that I don't feel wise enough to tackle.  What do you do when you like someone and they don't like you back?  When someone doesn't invite you to the party or to the neighborhood games?

I found myself resenting this little boy for making my boy feel left out.  But also knowing that there must be a reason for John excluding Kaio.  It could be something benign, like Kaio's just too energetic for his taste.  But if it is something malicious, like he's bullying Kaio, that only reflects on pain he's experiencing and trying to push on someone else, in which case I feel sorry for him. 

It's just become a weird dynamic.  John will pass by our house and Nala calls "Hi John!" to him, and he'll call back to her.  Kaio will be right there, but they'll ignore each other.  Last time this happened, Kaio looked at me, "I don't want to say hi to John."  I conveyed so much with so little words, "You don't have to Kaio, you don't have to."

In my kid who's still so lagged with his language development, we often have these cryptic conversations, where I'm not totally sure what he's saying, but I infer and then we go from there. 

That brings me to today.  An older neighbor boy came over to play on our tree.  John crossed the street and asked the boy if he would like to come over and play.  But the boy said no because he had to leave to football practice soon.  I saw John retract to his yard to be by himself.  It seemed like he banished himself instead of just sticking around and playing in our tree.   I regret not stepping in to invite him over.  

And I have to say that I felt some evil vindication with the whole thing.  I wish I were above that I really do, and hopefully next time I wont stare at him across the street by himself.  I will be gracious and proactive .  As we came inside for the evening, Kaio even said, out of nowhere,  "I want to invite John to my birthday party."  I guess he must have been remorseful of the payback as well.   

I know this is a part of growing up.  Kids are allowed to like and not like people.  Nala has some preferences when it comes to certain kids and speaks her mind about it.  I think her reactions sound amplified because she doesn't command language enough to tone it down with subtleties.  It's not a big deal, and it's a part of growing up.  I can't force my kids to like everyone or force other kids to like mine.

But, yeah, back to the rope swing.  It has been a huge hit!  A bridge to encouraging kids outside to play in the shade of the tree.  A conduit for imaginative play, innovation, and connection with nature.

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