How, as a parent, do you know when to get involved with a problem in your child's life and when to butt out? That is the principal issue that I face this week.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, Ella is having a hard time making friends at school. I don't know, maybe if I had known this for some time I wouldn't be taking it so hard. But since she just told me last week and it has now become a daily discussion, I am really torn up about it.
Do you remember being a young child in elementary school trying to make friends? Maybe on your first day of kindergarten or on your first day after moving to a new school? All the worries of, "Will they like me?", "What if they don't like my outfit?", "What if they don't like my haircut?", "What if I say something stupid?". What if. I can imagine the anxiety that must come with those questions. But imagine the anxiety that must additionally come with, "What if they don't understand what I am saying?", "What if they don't like American's?", "What if they don't like the way I speak French?" Those are the worries of my dear Ella. Every day she goes out to recess three times a day and every day she tries to get in with some kids to play and they tell her, "maybe tomorrow." That is just awful. And it just makes my heart hurt in a way that I can't explain but that I know many of you can totally understand.
So as any worried mother would do, I try to understand the problem so I can fix it for her. Right away. But just like any mother would see in their child, I see a smart, brave, funny, silly, happy, courageous and pretty girl. So why wouldn't other children want to be a part of that? Ella isn't mean or rude or selfish. She would give you anything if you asked for it. She would defend you if needed. She would be a good friend.
So what is the MATTER? Is it just a typical case of a new person arrives at school and there is no room for a new person in the clique? Is it that she speaks English and they are afraid they won't understand her if they play together? Is it just because she is different than them and that makes her an outcast? Is she offending her classmates in some way and she doesn't realize this? Is she trying too hard to make friends and that turns people off? These are the questions that I ask myself as my heart aches for her.
Now don't get upset. I can guarantee you that I am taking this harder than Ella. And maybe it's because if it were me in her situation, I would be devastated and petrified and I assume she must feel the same way. But she doesn't feel the same way. Fortunately for herself, she seems to be taking it in stride and she seriously seems to take the attitude of, "Oh well, I guess I will try again tomorrow." Try again tomorrow! How awesome is that? I mean come on kids, you have to give a girl props for continuing to try EVERY SINGLE DAY, right?
Today, Andrew and I mentioned that maybe she should stop approaching the other kids to play. Maybe she should just hang out by herself, take a book or pad of paper out to recess to read or draw, and see if any of the kids approach her instead. So she went to school this morning equipt with a book and a drawing pad, ready to pass the time at recess
by herself. She seemed pleased with this alternative. But I had also asked Ella if she would like me to talk to the school's secretary, who seems to handle matters of this nature, and see if she could help in any way. Ella said yes, please do talk to her.
I sent the school secretary an email this afternoon, stating my basic concern of Ella having no friends. The secretary does speak and read English pretty well, but I tried to keep it simple so as not to confuse. As I wrote the email, I began to wonder if I was getting involved where I should not. Should I just let Ella work through this on her own? Do all mom's swoop in when their child has problems making friends? Am I squashing Ella's ability to work through social problems by asking the secretary to intervene? But ultimately I decided that asking for help was not the wrong thing to do.
Your friends know your personality. Your friends know when you are being serious, sarcastic, or silly. Your friends know when you need a hug or a smile and when you need encouragement. And they know these things because of what you say, how you say it, when you say it and who you say it to. So it is for these reasons that I think it is difficult for Ella to make friends. She simply cannot express herself to others or show her personality, the way the other kids can. She can't say just what she wants, when she wants to and how she wants to, because she doesn't know the words or because they don't come to her when convenient. So maybe she uses physical actions or English words to supplement what she is trying to say and this probably loses the interest of her classmates quickly - who can communicate among themselves so carelessly and easily. And so I asked the secretary to intervene so that she might be able to help the other kids understand the challenges that Ella encounters each day that she arrives at school. And that they might reconsider having her as a friend despite her differences.
I'll admit, some days this is all enough to make me just want to pack up our bags and head home to Crested Butte. I think about how much easier life would be for all three of the girls. OK, and it would be easier for Andrew and myself, too. But for now, I think we can all deal with the obstacles that are coming our way. Some of them are painful obstacles, but I am told they are good for your character ; )