Living with my sister, her husband and my 3 nephews (LittleMan, Cue-ball, and Pea) spells chaos but it’s probably the best part of my decision to leave NY for DC. I battle them with a Storm Trooper helmet balancing precariously on my head (the helmet is child’s size) while they beat me with their light-sabers. They run me over with their Lego spaceships. I’m forced to watch the same SpongeBob episode after dinner that we watched that morning, the day before, and last week. I’ve learned the words to Drake & Josh’s theme song and actually think ICarly is pretty good.
If you don’t have kids, especially boys, the above may not make much sense, but trust me when I say…being part of it all is a blast! So when Sis asked me to go with her to a birthday party last weekend for one of Cue-ball’s friends, I said sure.
The party was here, an hour twenty minutes away from where we live and we sped to get there on time. Pump It UP! sits on a stretch of business park buildings and looks like a warehouse from the outside. Inside, it’s color-coded in a basic Crayola scheme. We were hurriedly ushered down a hallway into the “romper room.” Five inflatable moon-bounces jiggled as 40+ four-year-olds hurled themselves up and down blown-up slides and against castle walls. Cue-ball dove over a little girl in pink to pound his way up the ramp. Survival of the fittest, and in this case, most agile. At the top, in a king-of-the-world stance, he propelled himself down the slide landing on his head before leaping off to do it again.
The social interaction of four-year-olds is an interesting dynamic to behold. There were kids everywhere while parents stood either with cameras flashing or arms crossed honing their radars solely on their own child. See, it’s their responsibility to make sure their kid and their kid only is having a fantastic time. But with all these children running in every direction, I was struck by how very little they actually interacted. For the most part, they did their own thing independent of one another. Watching Cue-ball, I quickly realized he was totally fine with playing alone. Grant it, he was surrounded by pre-school tots, but he bounded over and through the blow-up-obstacles without really paying attention to anyone around him. I leaned over to Sis, “You know…I was a lot like Cue-ball, wasn’t I?” She just smiled tolerantly at me…I took that as a “duh.”
Growing up, I was as content by myself as I was when playing with others. My response when asked why I didn’t want to go and play with them was just a simple shrug, “I’m okay over here.” “Over here” being alone by the blocks or with a coloring book. Mom tells me I used to say, “I don’t need friends.”
But occasionally for some, they need to feel accepted and know when they’re not even at that young an age. As Sis and I stood off from the group, we observed a little girl crumble, sobbing to her mother that “nobody at the party liked her.” She walked over to a little corner, bent her head to her knees, and cried. Then as we watched, she ran into her mom’s legs and glanced up at us. Her mom confided, “T (the birthday girl) didn’t say hi when Em (her daughter) and I got here. I told Em that everyone is here to see T and so she’s very busy today, but…”
I looked down at poor Em, “Hi Em, I’m KT. It’s nice to meet you…have you tried the slide yet? I hear it’s awesome.” She hesitantly smiled and nodded. “Can you show me?” She looked up at her mom and raced off. As she bobbed up the ramp, her mom leaned over, “Just because T didn’t say hi, Em thinks no one likes her. I don’t know what to say…what do you say? They don’t understand when you tell them it’s not their fault…You don’t want to make a big deal about it. But she’s so conscious of being liked and if she’s ignored, she assumes nobody likes her.” I waved up at Em, and with a gap-tooth grin, she catapulted down the slide. “I guess she’s fine now,” her mom announced. And that was it. A five minute spell and Em had completely recovered, grabbing the hand of another girl as they climbed up and over the bouncing apparatus.
Maybe it’s because I’m twelve years apart from my nearest sibling and so was kind-of an only child that I was satisfied when it was just my Barbies and me. Or maybe I had some serious social issues, but clearly as I’ve grown older, I realize the value of friendship. I love my friends and the support and camaraderie we share with each other. But in many ways, I’m still the same kid. I’m totally comfortable alone. And it always surprises me to hear people say they could never sit at a coffee shop or park by themselves, that they would most definitely need someone across from them. Because to me alone is okay and quiet is okay…so maybe, I haven’t changed that much after all.
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