It isn’t easy when you don’t know anyone.
Traveling around as a child (and we traveled a lot) – I was lucky enough to have my sister- only two and a half years younger then me, she was a built-in friend. We had each other on our many vacations, yet we would befriend other kids around hotel pools, playgrounds, even the arcades.
I was never one to really shy away from the opportunity to make new friends.
It is always interesting as a parent to sit back and watch how your child will react in the same situations.
This past week I have watched my youngest daughter struggle with not having friends to play with at the complex that we are staying in.
As heartbreaking as it has been to watch- I remind myself that it is also character building.
My oldest daughter is seven years older then her sister, and as a teenager- N craves her alone time. She loves being left to read, listen to music, text or talk with friends. She doesn’t always want her little sister bothering her and she certainly doesn’t want to spend time with her parents as much anymore.
This week we have spent a lot of time by the pool and unfortunately, I can not go swimming- (Doctors orders) but I sit at the side, watching and chatting with my girls as they swim. At first my youngest was content enough with this. She liked having her sister’s attention, and while we were sad I am not allowed in the pool with my wound (I can not wait for these damn Setons to be gone!) at least I was making the most of it by wandering in up to my knees.
After a few days though, S became very sad. She started to pout, and sit on the pool edge longingly watching the other kids play together- even though none of them were really in her age range. She hoped every day that someone her age would come to the pool and be her friend. Her sister would sit with her and try to cheer her up.
Every day was met with disappointment.
Day three of our poolside fun is where it went from sadness to general frustration- she became angrier. More stubborn. She started huffing and puffing. No- it wasn’t good enough that she had her sister or myself around… she wanted a friend!
I tried explaining to her gently that I can’t just force another child to play with her. None of them were in her age range anyway and they were all quite rough with each other.
I eventually decided we had enough pool time and brought her back to the Condo for an ice cream sandwich.
Day Four- She stubbornly refused to put her swimsuit on.
“I am not going!”
N of course wanted to go to the pool, but she didn’t want to go by herself. She is perfectly content not knowing anyone here- She just wants to swim and work on her tan- provided I am nearby. (Understandable)
I made it clear that we were going to the pool- at least for half an hour and that my youngest could put her swimsuit on but it was up to her whether she was going to swim or not.
She was not happy.
Actually- she burst into tears.
“I don’t want to go! I don’t have any friends!” She sobbed and stomped, tears streaming down her face.
I gave her a hug, wiped her tears away and said:
“That was yesterday, this is today- you don’t know who or what fun awaits you at the pool. You may be sad now- but I bet it wont last!”
“Are you going to get me friends?”
“No- I am not. I have told you- I can’t make anyone play with you- but you never know- today may be the day a new friend shows up! There is no need for tears. Let’s cheer up and see what kind of fun at the pool we can have! It’s your choice whether you choose to swim or not- but mommy is here! So is big sister!.”
She wasn’t convinced but hand in hand we walked to the pool.
She and her sister went in and of course within minutes of being in the water, her anger had ceased, the tears were gone and she was happily splashing around as N taught her swimming tricks. When N eventually got out of the pool for a break, I sat and watched S look lost… until by some miracle a little girl walked over to where my youngest sat and said those magic words:
“Hi. Would you like to be my friend?”
My daughter’s eyes lit up!
They exchanged names. My daughter filled her in that we are Canadian and not from around here- but she is here off and on all summer. They exchanged ages (this little girl was four to my daughters six) and they swam and jumped and played as I sat on watching.
At one point the little girl said, “I am sorry- I forgot your name again…”
My daughter replied, “That is okay- you can call me Dee-Dee if it is easier…”
My jaw hit the floor.
I have been trying to get that nickname going for years and she always tells me she hates it- but here she is- offering it to the little girl who was having trouble with her name.
The two girls swam and played for the next couple of hours.
They were even invited to climb onto a giant floating duck by some older kids who knew her new friend. S looked at me for permission, I granted it- and my daughter grinned as they helped her on and started to push the duck around the pool so they could have a ride.
Finally, peace and tranquility was restored.
Afterwards, as we walked toward our building hand in hand, my little girl looked up at me, a huge grin on her face:
“Mommy! I made a friend!”
“I told you that today was a new day! Always have faith kiddo!”
It’s a tale as old as time.
Children learning to navigate the world… trying to navigate friendships and social situations…
As a parent all I can do is offer guidance, be positive, loving, try to make everything negative into a positive life lesson, and as hard as it is- sometimes I need to remind myself to step back and let her figure out her way.
She knows I am always there.