When my son was in first grade, I would often make the mistake of asking him what he did at recess. There were rarely more than 2 possible answers to this question. Either a) he played with his friend, Mary Ann (whose name has been changed to gratuitously reference “Gilligan’s Island”) or b) he played by himself.

I was dismayed. While I was happy that he had a friend to play with most of the time, I didn’t like that he didn’t have anyone else to fall back on. His teacher observed the same thing. And then I’d try to ever so subtly suggest that maybe he could find someone else to play with if Mary Ann decided that day that she’d rather, say, get into a coconut-cream pie fight with Ginger. It never worked.

One of the most painful things I’ve discovered about parenthood are the inevitable “Oh…” moments. Those are the times, when in the middle of being absolutely mystified by something my kids do, or don’t do, I suddenly think about my own behavior. Because when I stopped to think about it, I had to admit that I play by myself a lot at recess too.

Oh, it’s different, of course. I can make small talk with the best of them. There’s this whole mingling scene after school, while the kids are playing, and I can usually find a cluster of moms to stand awkwardly with, while trying to keep my two-year-old daughter from a) doing a triple gainer off the play structure, or b) being mobbed by a gang of overly-enthusiastic second grade girls.

But when it comes arranging play dates for myself…well, there I tend to rely on my own Mary Anns.

I’ve been lucky all my life to have found Mary Anns every place I’ve lived. They’re the women I find down-to-earth and easy to talk to. The Gingers of the world have terrified me since middle school, and still have a tendency to make me feel about as feminine and glamorous as old meatloaf.

But Ginger-phobia aside, I have to admit that I’ve never been good at cultivating new friendships. When dealing with other people, I often find myself back in the lunchroom in eighth grade at my new school, hoping someone will ask me to join them at their table. It never occurs to me that I could just have a seat and ask someone else to sit with me.

But ever since that unfortunate “Oh…” moment last year, I have been trying to branch out more and make new friends of my own, and try to see my other good friends more often.

Meanwhile, my son has found a new little buddy at school named Gilligan. And maybe that’s enough. As long as he can get along okay most of the time with the Howes and Professors and Gingers of the world, I’m happy if he only has a few really good friends.

We grown-ups are so hypocritical sometimes, demanding, for example, that kids always share their toys, even with other kids they barely know. If a stranger showed up at my house and demanded to take a turn with my car, I’d probably look for a nice way to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.

So I’ve tried to stop asking my son what he did at recess. We’re both much happier for it. And as long as he’s not complaining, why should I worry?

Not that that’s ever stopped me before.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mandalaymai
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 14:45:12

    Again, I say what I said before. Don’t be thrown by all the Gingers. They could just Mary Anns with a Ginger candy-coating. I think they even did an episode like that, where Mary Ann thought she WAS Ginger…


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