When I was a kid I was perfectly happy to play by myself. I wasn’t a kid who needed friends, but it’s quickly becoming clear that Annie is. Annie longs for friends, but as the only child at home (for now), she spends most of her time with adults. This means that when Annie is around other kids she’s desperate to make them her friends, and it hurts her Daddy’s heart to watch her put herself on the line like that.
Last weekend we were in Laguna Niguel and Annie and I had a great time at the beach making sand castles and running away from the approaching tide. Soon, however, Annie found the sand and waves a lot less interesting than the kids around us. She focused on a little girl who was a couple of years older than her.
“Dada,” she said. “Can I go over to that girl and say, ‘Hi, I’m Annabel. What’s your name?’”
Since I had no idea if this older girl would be nice, I wanted to tell Annie to stay with me, but I knew that wouldn’t be right. So I swallowed hard and said, “If you want to, Sweetie.”
Annie walked over to the girl and I felt my heart leap into my throat. I was reminded of what it felt like back in my school days when I dared to cross the cafeteria (sweaty palms and all) to talk to a girl I liked.
“Hi, I’m Annabel,” Annie said upon reaching the girl. “What’s your name?”
The girl looked over, surprised, and said her name.
Annie lit up, then launched into a long monologue that couldn’t be heard over the crashing off the waves.
“You have to speak up, Sweetie,” I said, but after a few seconds the girl tired of trying to hear and sprinted off toward the water.
“She ran away,” Annie said, more confused than sad.
“I think her feet hurt and she needed to get them wet,” I said.
Later, the girl sat on the sand making castles, and Annie plopped down next to her.
“Do your feet feel better?” Annie asked.
The girl furrowed her brow, then played with Annie for a couple of minutes before running off again.
The next day we went to the pool where Annie, in her water wings, spotted a little girl who was also wearing water wings.
“Dada, can I go over to that girl and say, ‘Hi, I’m Annabel. What’s your name?’”
Again I resisted the urge to tell Annie “No” and nodded. She floated over to the girl and introduced herself, but the girl didn’t respond. Annie wasn’t going to give up so easily, though.
“I like your water wings,” she said. “They’re blue; mine are red.”
More silence from the kid who struck me as the shy type.
“Do you like knock-knock jokes?” Annie persisted.
Still no response. Annie frowned at me.
“She doesn’t talk.”
Luckily for Annie (and her Dad’s delicate heart), she later met the daughters of a friend of ours, and the three hit it off like gangbusters.
“Do you like knock-knock jokes?” Annie asked.
“Yes!” the sisters responded. The trio then proceeded to trade jokes, giggle, and dance around.
I’d be perfectly happy if Annie only wanted to hang out with her family members (who’d never reject her), but I know that kids need to branch out. Still, it’s hard to watch, especially since when I was little I never would have dared to go up to unfamiliar kids the way she does. Annie definitely is brave and outgoing like her mom, though, and that will serve her well in life. And she won’t have to pine for friends much longer – preschool starts just around the corner.