My daughter had a meltdown one morning last week when I was in NYC. Apparently she didn't want to go to school and started crying. My husband, not one to give in to histrionics, said, "Get on the darn bus." and she did, crying.
The next day, knowing nothing about this I walked her to the bus stop but when the bus pulled up she burst into tears and said, "I don't want to go."
I brought her home, asked her what was wrong and drove her to school. She insisted I walk her into the school so I did - reluctantly.
In the lobby there was a little girl my daughter's age that neither of us knew. We were all standing there waiting for the bell to ring indicating that the kids could go to their classrooms and the little girl looked very awkward while she waited by herself.
"Go talk to her." I told my daughter.
"No way." she told me.
Finally the bell rang and she ran off to class as happy as could be.
Over the weekend she told me that she hated the bus because she didn't have any close friends on the bus and some of the other girls had told her "not to eavesdrop" when she tried to participate in their conversation.
I remember this feeling from second grade so I did what I wished I could have done myself back then - I went to my third grade son and said, "Your sister is feeling bad because she doesn't have anyone to sit with on the bus - can you sit with her?" He looked surprised.
"She does?" he asked. I nodded. "Of course I can." he told me. My fourth grade son piped in, "I can sit with her too!"
On Saturday I went to my husband's gun range by myself for the first time. I was a little bit nervous because it was the first time I'd fired my pistol without my husband with me and I was sure I'd do something silly that showed everyone I was new - but of course I didn't. I walked into the range, nodded at the people there and went about my business. It took about 15 minutes and then I left. When I got home I said to my husband. I saw a few people but they weren't very friendly.
Then I realized I hadn't said anything to them either. I promised myself that next time I went I would introduce myself to everyone I saw and tell them, "I'm new and I figure if I do this every time, eventually I'll know everyone."
This morning my daughter got on the bus happily flanked by her big brothers. "I'm VERY jealous of you." I told her with them listening. "When I was little I didn't have a big brother." She beamed.
The three of them got on the bus and sat down together. Through the window I could see them laughing. I could also see one of the little girls that my daughter said excluded her - sitting by herself - neither of her friends had made the bus this morning and she was looking out the window awkwardly. (Note: I like the little girl. It's one of her friends that's a mean girl.)
Then I came back to my office and stressed out about the fact that I'm the only person in town without 100 friends. I always see other people hanging out or talking about going on vacation together so I'm certain that I'm the only one who has no close friends in town.
So I took my woes to Twitter where every single person agreed that making adult friendships was HARD. Even when we make the effort we run out of time because life gets in the way.
But, dammit, I decided to make the effort. I called 5 friends and invited them over to play card on Saturday night. I don't even know if they all play cards. Two of them said 'yes', One said she'd love to but her family is going skiing and the other two haven't called me back.
That's still pretty good, right?
And my daughter? Well, she and her brothers came off the bus laughing but when I told her about how she hadn't even noticed the little girl sitting by herself this morning I think it dawned on her that she only notices when SHE'S the one who's being excluded.
So hopefully we all learned something today.