I am a nostalgic gal. There are many things about Life-as-it-used-to-be that I pine for, and you can often hear me grumbling like a curmudgeon about how things are today, and how I think they are ruinin’ our society (she says, typing on her magical box.) One such invention is the “play date.” I freakin’ hate them.
“Can you call Wilbur?”
“What?” I say, looking up from my computer. It’s a Saturday morning, and one of the few times that week I have been inspired to write something decent.
“I want to have a play date. Can you call Wilbur’s Mom and ask if he can play?” It’s my 8 yr old son bugging me. (Again.) Wilbur lives right around the corner, mind you, but they are so busy with activities and family time, that most attempts for my son to hang with him “old school style” (aka walking over and knocking on the door) fail. I begrudgingly text her. Usually it’s a no-go, but sometimes we catch them at the right time. Not today.
The next half hour to an hour consists of him giving me a string of names, while I continually push him off to play on his own (you see, I think that boredom is good for kids! It leads to creativity…) “How about Jebediah? Zeus? Paris? Can you call Gomer’s Mom? I never get to play with him!” At the mention of Gomer’s name, I stiffen a little. Yeah, you never do…My son continues. “I really like Gomer! Why don’t you ever call for him to come over?” Sigh. I do call.
Here is what I say to my son: “I’ve called them many times. But they have a really big family. I’m sure his Mom is just too busy to get back to me when I call. People are so overscheduled these days. But don’t worry! You will get to see him in school on Monday!”
Here is what I should say: “Dude, he’s just not that into you!”
I am doing my kid a disservice if I sugar-coat this issue any longer. Not everyone wants to be your friend. No it’s not fair. (Life isn’t fair! Just wait until you fall in love with someone and they don’t love you back! But I digress…) I was volunteering in his kindergarten class one day, and a few children were squabbling over something. The teacher chose to explain to the entire group that they needed to be nice to each other, because they are “all friends.” Excuse me? No, they are not. They are classmates. They are members of society that need to be cordial to one another. But they are not all friends. Some people have good chemistry and similar interests, and some don’t. This is not a judgment on either person: it just is. And the more we try to bang square pegs into round holes, or blame one person’s attributes for the problem, the worse it gets. No wonder people go into their dating years so confused! They have spent years being told by their teachers and parents that they should be friends with everyone, instead of recognizing the signs that maybe this personality isn’t the right fit for us.
In case this is news to you, here are 5 signs that a child is not interested in being your child’s friend.
- They don’t choose to play with her at school. Your kid might really want to be close with someone, but when probed, you find out that this kid consistently does something else at recess. “I need to have Xena over for a playdate! I never see her at school, because she is always playing tag and I’m not invited to join.” You’ve gone through the obligatory, “well have you asked if you can play too?” and discovered that your child is being told that there are too many players. Or their shirt isn’t red. Or their hair is too long. Uh, I’ve got news for you, if Xena is playing a nebulous game where the children run around on the grass, and your kid isn’t allowed to join, that is on purpose.
- They don’t sit next to him at lunch. You find out that even though everyone can choose where they want to sit at lunchtime, Merlin consistently sits with other people, and might even “save seats” for friends and not let your child sit next to him. Your child will be tempted to justify this behavior. “Mom, it’s nothing! They are really good friends with Benji, and I got to sit 3 seats away from him. He said I could sit next to him tomorrow (which never comes.)
- You invite them to parties, and never get an invite in return. Just because a kid shows up to your birthday party does not mean that they like you. It means that they like cake. I don’t know of a single kid under the age of 12 who has turned down a party invitation because they don’t like the birthday boy or girl. But are they reciprocating? Does this mean that if you didn’t get invited to one party that they hate you? No! Birthday parties have become over-the-top, ridiculous stressors in people’s lives these days, and they cost way too much money, and take up way too much of people’s weekends. (I swear if my friends liked me they would stop inviting my kids to all of these parties.) However, when trying to figure out if you are getting valid excuses, or the big brush off, it is one more variable to throw in the mix.
- They say mean things to her or change their personality when other kids are around. Kids have no filter – they can be really rude, especially if they aren’t that into you in the first place. If your child is reporting consistently mean behavior from said child, that is not a friend. I have seen “not into them kids” be nice to my children when they are alone, because, well, no one else is around and they want the company. But when other more desirable kids are around…forget it. They morph into snooty “I-can’t-be-seen-with-you” right then and there.
- You do all of the inviting (and they don’t accept or reciprocate). No matter how many times you call to invite them over for play time, outings, pizza parties, sleepovers, there is always an excuse…until you look back on months, even years of excuses with no results. I’m not talking about one or two slights that you are now blowing up and being sensitive about. Don’t make up stories: we are all dealing with private battles that most people know nothing about. There could be a death in the family, a divorce, a chronic medical problem, etc. But if all of these signs are ringing true, and there is a pattern of non-response, then maybe it’s time to have a heart to heart with your kid. It might be hard for them to hear it. They will probably continue to justify the other child’s behavior. This is a Life lesson that takes time and patience. But you can help them learn what good friendship looks like by having them spend time with kids that they really gel with. They will feel better when they realize it’s not them. It’s just chemistry.
Of course, it might not be our kid they are trying to avoid. It might be us…