Sunday, January 25, 2009

Playdates...Loving your Child's Friends

I'm reminded of the famous line from Forrest Gump, "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get." The same analogy works for play-dates. At the initial play-date, you just don't know what kind of child is going to show up to play with your kid. What's in their center?

It was a very social weekend for my daughter. Two play-dates in two days.

My 9-year old daughter has two very different best friends. One we'll refer to as "R," has been her best friend since kindergarten. They are yin and yang. My daughter is studious, and all learning comes easily to her. However, she's not so athletic. School is harder for R, but she is a natural athlete and can do any sport. Their different skill sets allow opportunities for one girl to the help the other dependent on the situation.

My daughter is opinionated and talkative. "R" tends to be a follower and is the most agreeable sort of child that I've ever met. She doesn't want to bother anyone or get in the way. I have to drag an opinion out of her, because she tends to goes along with my assertive daughter's suggestions. Her favorite word used to be "Sorry," for matters that didn't warrant anything near an apology. (I think we've gotten past that issue." YEA!)

"R" is like one of our family. She fits and she feels like a 2nd daughter to me. At the dinner table when we share our best/worst parts of the day, she will often say, "The best part of my day was being here with you." It's enough to warm the cockle's of one's heart, even though I still don't have a clue what "cockles"ARE! She is warm, affectionate and sweet.

Enter play-date #2, whom we shall call "A." "A" has been on the friend scene for about 1 1/2 years now. She is fun, spirited and witty, with a sparkle in her eye and a passion for life.

Daughter and "A" are similar personalities. They are both smart as whips which can make them competitive. They love each other, but they make it known that they each have an opinion and one is just as important as the other. My daughter has learned that she cannot "run over" other people's ideas, and that she doesn't always get her own way. It's an important life lesson, better learned at age 9, than learned as an adult. (Side Note: Some people never seem to have learned this lesson.)

"A" always, always manages to keep me on my toes and she makes me smile, too. Recently, while mixing up a marinade for chicken, she eyed it curiously, and then asked, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" And then yesterday, for their play-date lunch, I made teriyaki salmon fillets, accompanied by twice baked potatoes and salad. "A" took one look and said, "That doesn't look like salmon to me." She says what she thinks and I appreciate her openness.

They are both awesome little people with unique personalities. Both friends fulfill her needs as a young developing person. They bring out the best parts of my daughter, and I am proud to know these two remarkable girls who she calls "best friends."

Play-dates are not without their challenges, for sure. However, they can be extremely rewarding. A playmate for your child, and another child for you to enjoy and love...temporarily.

And so, as with the box of chocolates, there can be many play-date kids that turn out to be enjoyably sweet...just differently textured and flavored.

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