Recently my four-year-old was looking through his communication folder and he came to the part that has the staff photos from his nursery. The manager had kindly laminated all of their headshots to help with our visual timetable. I took the photos out one by one, naming each staff member, while my son laughed and shrieked with joy. He then seized all of the pictures, grabbed all of their faces, pulling them to him as close as possible, until they were all in his lap and then signed…friend.
“That’s right buddy, they’re your friends!”
He continued to sign ‘friend’ while laughing and then went back to looking at their faces, one by one. This continued for some time.
For my son, the nursery staff are his friends, in the same way that me and his Dad are. We are invested in him, give him a lot of attention, don’t expect a lot back, and understand him. We wait patiently for him to communicate, play with him, make him laugh, and most importantly, we bring him food. That’s friendship to him at the moment and to be fair, it doesn’t sound too bad. Imagine someone being there for your every whim without needing anything in return! So, while my four-year-old has a collection of adult friends, we’ve yet to see him have the same bond and interest in children of his own age… until last week.
At nursery pick up, the manager told me that a little girl had been playing with my son, and while at home, speaks of him all the time. My son is her favourite thing at the moment and she tells her mum all about him; everything that he can do and everything that she helps him with. She enjoys bringing him toys to play with, like a servant to a King, and waits patiently for him to interact with her.
They like to play alongside one another, blowing bubbles together and riding their trikes in the garden. She, like the adults in his life, work hard. She works hard to make sure that he is happy, that he has everything he needs and that he is not playing alone. This little girl has taken on a more mature, almost parental role with him and the loveliest thing about it all, is that she enjoys it. She enjoys making him happy and he enjoys having a new friend his own height. My son is starting to create a friendship and while it is still heavily one-sided, it’s a huge step in the right direction.
I’d been waiting for this to happen, sometimes patiently, sometimes with frustration, sometimes with a reluctant acceptance that it might not happen. As while my son is surrounded by people who love him, and has plenty of opportunity to mix with lots of children, he has done this all by himself by just being him.
When the manager asked if I was happy for them to pass on my details to organise a play date, I did what any mother who has been waiting desperately for their child to make a friend do… I burst into tears.
Friendship is everything.