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Jul 30, 2010

Toddler dream: Can you be my friend?

Over the last week, we have had a lot of play dates and people visiting us. Daniel has always loved having friends and he did really well most of the time. He is usually very comfortable in any environment, old or new, and with other people, even people he doesn't know much yet. And most importantly, he LOVES having friends. Any friends. Really. To the point where he might be exposing himself to some disappointment.

Most of our play dates were with kids his age. He eagerly anticipated each of them, and talked about how he would share his toys with his friends and have a great time. When the play dates started, he was very excited, going right away to the other kid(s) and asking them: "do you want to play with me?", "Do you want my [insert Daniel's toy name here]?" Usually the other kids were a little more shy, so it took them longer to open up. I am not sure how Daniel experienced their initial skepticism. Watching the interaction, I felt a somewhat concerned that Daniel would feel rejected and disappointed. Fortunately, he didn't show much of a negative reaction (he kept repeating his questions until the other kid responded) and the rest of the play dates went really well.

We also had guests at our house, with kids age 6 and 9. This was an interesting set-up, a new dynamic for us. Daniel did really well as a host as well. Again, once he understood that kids were visiting, he was eagerly talking about how we would show them his toys and play with them. I tried to prepare him for the fact that these kids might not be excited about toys for 2-year olds. Fortunately, the 6-year old went along with most of his offers and played with him on several occasions. Daniel was so excited and kept talking about how fun it was to play together. At another time, Daniel invited the kids to watch a TV episode of Bob the Builder with him. He was so cute, asking (pleading) for them to come. Unfortunately, they were absorbed in an iPad game (that they had just discovered in our home) and didn't pay attention to Daniel. Once again, I expected some disappointment and felt so bad for him. I encouraged Daniel to go and watch TV by himself and maybe the kids would come later... And luckily the iPad quickly ran out of battery, so they ended up joining us. Daniel got so excited. He kept repeating "we are friends!" and bouncing on his seat.

So, yes, apparently, having friends is very important for Daniel. He needs the positive energy that comes from having friends. Lately, I read him a book about a bear who was looking for friends and got rejected by all kinds of other animals because he was different. The story was written in a funny tone, and it ended well (obviously). So I didn't think much of it... until I realized that Daniel (who I couldn't see because he was sitting on my lap) was sobbing. Poor him, he was really taken by the rejection experienced by the bear.

I recently wrote about my optimistic toddler. It's great to see his enthusiasm for everything. I know he is going to have to learn to deal with difficult experiences at some point, and I think that, when he realizes that making friends could take hard work (probably soon), it will be tough. I am already heart-broken just thinking about it. Good that he at least has a little sister now. In a few years, this should be a friend he can count on.

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