I've realized that as I watch Peanut navigate the social life of an almost 3 year old, the things that pain me are reminders of friendships past. Lately, she has been really clingy and very withdrawn when there is a new element or a change to her regular social routines. We had some new kids at playgroup and it was as though she couldn't speak. The switch of homes for our preschool coop was harder these last two times as well - she's tending to hang back in circle and be really quiet. She's always a quiet kid in groups - she likes to watch and wait before she makes a move, she's the last to emerge from ballet every week, and the last to get her hand stamped because she just doesn't crowd up front at all. That part is not new, but the really shy, needy girl when she's with her best most familiar friends is a new thing. I know she needs reassurance in these times, and I'd give it to her if I could. She seems to pick times to really need me when Pumpkin is latched on...so it has been tough.
All this drama so early makes me think about the later drama to come and how I want to handle it. I can remember in late elementary school, my best friend left playing with me while I was at her house to take a phone call from another girl that I was not friendly with at all. I was so upset and slighted that I left her house and went back to mine. I can't really imagine I had any idea of what I was feeling, and I know at the time I certainly couldn't articulate it. I think my whole life I've been sort of a serial monogamist with girlfriends (and boyfriends - but that's a whole other story!) and I learned pretty late how to maintain solid deep friendships with several of people at the same time. Honestly, I still can't say that this is a strong point for me. I see this need for Peanut to have one on one relationships without interference, and I wonder how to help her navigate them better than I do.
I think about my best friends through the years, and realize that many times when something has "gone wrong" I've just let the friendship go. I don't know that I had the tools to work things out, or if I did but it just seemed too hard. I do know that I am really good at compartmentalizing my life and my head, and I have an extraordinary ability to just shut the door on difficult issues, locking them up and swallowing the key. I do know there have been times that I decided the loss of a friendship was needed for me to grow, but not that often. I wondered this morning at 4am when all kinds of random pieces of life swirl around in my head whether I've shut people out on purpose after my dad died, or maybe I started doing it as early as elementary school, after that first hurt. I had to learn to ask for help from my closest friends after my divorce and that was excruciating. I wondered if I just learned early to be so independent that I never expressed a need for a friendship to continue or grow, or if sometimes I just think women friendships are hard to maintain because we are always over analyzing everything. I also wonder if this is just my own perception and all of us feel like this...
Anyway, it's Peanut that I worry about - otherwise I'm thinking all this stuff might take a heck of lot longer for me to consider unearthing. I'm hopeful that by diving into my past and present social skills and experiences, I can help figure out how to best support my little one in her path. Like every mom, I want to shield her from hurt, but I know she will have to learn by experience. I want to validate her hurts and happiness, give her the words and ideas to make decisions about how to negotiate her relationships. I want it to be easier for her to share with her friends, work things out with them, and ask them to help her when she needs it. I want her to love making new friends and keeping the old - like that old girl scout song "one is silver and the other gold."