Last weekend we went to the beach and within minutes Ranger had a small pack of friends, though the girl of the pack was the one Ranger faced his fear of the waves for. (Here he is trying to get the hang of turning from a wave.)
We had three and a half days of beach going and Ranger sought out every girl near his age and when he found none, sought out any kid that would play regardless of age or gender. He kept looking for at first little girl, but her family was leaving the day after we arrived. They had been in the hotel room next to us and he went out every morning looking for her.
This weekend we went to the playground and right away Ranger found some girls his age dancing. He wanted to be apart of their fun, and bless his heart he tried but he had a few things working against him. One, the girls were already good friends with each other. Two, he had never heard the music they were dancing to, and they were dancing very specific moves and sing with the music. He did try, and when their music source got a call, Ranger asked me to pull up his favorite song, the In the Jungle The Mighty Jungle song.
He sat on a step and with a very serious face held the phone up so they could hear the song. It's not exactly a dancing song. The next song was from Phineas and Ferb and the girls made an attempt at dancing but let's face it the genre of music I have on my phone for Ranger is a totally different type of genre the girls were used to. They listened through three songs and one music video (Nonagon) and Ranger took his job as DJ very seriously.
Suddenly they rushed away and proclaimed they were not allowing anyone else to play with the two of them. Ranger ran around to the other side, climbed up (I took my phone while he climbed) and tried again with the music.
He tried this twice before coming to me in tears. He wanted to be best friends with "dees two guys" (for him the gender words are interchangeable).
Oh, y'all, the look on his face when he was repeatedly turned away. He was, for his limited experience, heartbroken, and sought the comfort of my arms.
The girls had closed ranks because of a slightly older boy who was upsetting them. I would put money down that he is on the spectrum and has not yet been given the tools to know how to interact properly. He was threatening the girls with harm. He was genuinely upset when called a bad boy, and his caregiver (dad? Grandpa?- busy tending to a younger styling) just repeated that he needed to be a good boy.
So Ranger was in tears, dejected, while the two girls were trying to avoid the older boy, who was, like Ranger, following them around. The one girl's dad was there and he was doing a good job of keeping his daughter from saying mean things back and encouraging her to move to other areas. Perhaps another parent might lash out at the boy, who on first glance could be old enough to know better.
But instead I told the little girls that my little boy really wanted to play and just wasn't sure how to play. They seemed like hey might maybe be game. Then I looked the older boy in the eye, at his level, and told him in a firm voice with a neutral face that threatening to hurt people was not nice, that if he wanted to play he needed to stop saying those threats, or he could go sit on a bench and come back when he was ready to say nice things. He met my stare with a smile I have seen on many of the spectrum kids I taught. He was processing my request so I did not look away until he nodded. To give him credit he didn't say threatening things again.
The little girl had had enough, though, especially when her friend's mom came to take her home. Even Ranger's knock knock jokes could not bring her around, not as long as the other boy was there. And he wasn't going anywhere.
Ranger tried again to be friends on the swings, and was thwarted again by this other kid as well as the little girl's hesitance. When we called time to go Ranger did not want to go. He wanted to stay. Because in his mind he could still maybe be friends with this little girl.
Ranger is a hearty soul and hasn't really looked back on his heart hurts of earlier in the day. But as his mommy I will not soon forget the expression he wore and his tears. It was the first of many times, I'm sure, that he will experience rejection. It's a part of life to learn that not everyone will want to be your friend.
Have your kids experienced their first heart hurts? Rejection or teasing or other?