“Do you want to be my friend?” Caroline looked at the little girl kind of funny, a small, slanty glance, shrugging her off in a—Are You Talking to Me? –kind of way. Caroline’s used to being the shy one in a crowd while some of her peers bust right into each other’s personal spaces. Even at school surrounded by familiar, friendly classmates, it takes Caroline a while to warm up at certain events.
So when the little girl with the round face who’d just arrived at the sledding hill went directly up to Caroline, stood an inch from her and asked, “Do you want to be my friend?” Caroline was thrown. She looked at me. I suggested that she ask for her new friend’s name and the new friend interrupted, “Do you like princesses?” While Caroline was beginning a nod, the new friend said, “Because I like princesses.” Caroline smiled, eventually made the point that she was going to go down the hill with her sister, and that was pretty much the extent of it. No numbers exchanged. No plans to be in each other’s weddings.
Even though I was never that kid, I like that kid–the one who announces it, keeps nothing inside, puts it all out there: BE MY FRIEND. DO IT. IT’S THAT EASY. That’s got to be a healthy approach to living, right? That kid will not get ulcers or have panic attacks. That kid will not wonder, What if I had just….because she WILL HAVE just about anything she wanted to do, on the spot, without worrying or speculating the pros and cons of it.
I obviously like my kid, too—both of them. And I don’t expect them to change. I suspect genetics has something to do with their sometimes guarded approaches. But I love it when they feel comfortable enough to let their guards down.
Like at the bus-stop. Lexi decided to roll out our old umbrella stroller for the trip to the bus-stop last Friday. For the record, I was against it because what I bring to the bus-stop is sheer exhaustion, and a mug of coffee—that’s it. But what I inevitably schlep home are all of Lexi’s “good ideas” from the morning: basketballs, stuffed animals, face-painting kits, bowls of cereal.
Lexi and Caroline took turns pushing each other in the stroller. They sang some goofy song, went from slow to fast then –“Whoa!”—turned quickly to a stop. Again and again. The kindergarten through second grade crowd was putty in their hands. Bright smiles. Crazy eyes. Early morning giggles. Funniest. Girls. Ever.
I noticed a 6th grader who waits at the same stop for the “big kid” bus walking by at one point–the Stroller Comedy Show didn’t slow her down at all. She went through the little kids like they were mini-Jacob Marley ghosts. Not a glance their way. She walked right by, towards her peers: the lanky pre-teens standing around on the hill, listening to iPods, boys staring through drooping bangs, girls straightening with colored fingernails already straightened skirts.
I noticed, too, that Caroline and Lexi did not give the big girl an inch of attention.
These days may be numbered. But for now, praise be the 6-year-old, fast-friending on the sledding hill and stroller-derbying at the bus-stop.
6th grader, I say to you: Walk on by.