Monday, October 16, 2006

The new kid

Julia's academic transition, as I wrote last week, has been surprisingly seamless. Her social transition has been a little less successful so far.

We have stumbled, for better or worse, into a school where all of the children seem to invite the entire class to their birthday parties. After the 37 or so parties which Julia attended back in the States last year, if has felt strangely deja vu to have a calendar filled with Julia's social engagements rather than our own, and I'm back to buying birthday gifts in bulk and grumbling about the lack of free time my nearly-5 year old's party schedule affords us. It's also been somewhat of a relief, however, for Julia to be included in all of the festivities. These invitations that keep arriving in her school bag each day are a signal that she's part of the group and that the other children in the class are accepting her mid-term addition into their circle.

Sort of.

Julia had parties on both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. She was very excited to receive the invitations and looking forward to both events. On Saturday, however, she came home sad that the birthday girl had not picked her for any special games or honors. On Sunday, she came home sad that she had not had anyone to sit with on the coach ride home from the party. She may be part of the group, but she's definitely playing the role of new girl.

From what I've been able to piece together, Julia's working quite hard to insert herself into the social mix at school. She's played with nearly every girl in her class at one point or another and has tried as best she can to involve herself into games and activities that interest her. She's met with mixed results. This is a tight knit group of kids, many of whom are on their third year together, and the personalities of the girls in particular are quite strong. Some have been friendly and welcoming. Others frankly sound like they've been a little rude. But no one has particularly stepped forward to embrace the softspoken latecomer with the strange accent. For now, my kid is definitely the odd man out, and that's a role she's never played before. She's a little confused by it all, and it breaks my heart to watch her try so earnestly to navigate her way through this new experience without a friend to hold her hand.

I know that Julia will eventually find her niche and I'm sure that she will make lasting friendships over time. But like everything else around here, it's not going to happen overnight. I'll do my part to help, of course; as soon as I can figure out who might be a good match for her, I'll try to set up some playdates, and I'll throw Julia a lovely birthday party and simply cross my fingers and pray that the children in her class attend. But in the end, I can't make the other kids befriend my daughter, and quite frankly, neither can she. It will happen, if it happens (it has to happen, right?), when it happens.

Figuring out how to make friends and form a community for myself here is hard. But watching my daughter try to do the same? That's about a million times harder.


Blogger Rosemary said...

ohhh, I know it is so hard. At least Julia is being invited to the parties. It's really heart rending when children are left totally on the sidelines. I'm so impressed by how well Julia is handling the situation -- playing with all the children and searching for her way "in".

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She'll find her way, and will be all the better for it.

And you will, too -- on both counts.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

It sounds like she's already doing great with trying to get to know the other kids and fitting in, especially given her introverted past. I'm sure she'll have some good friends in no time. As I was reading this, I was thinking, "Way to go, Julia!"

We're going through the same thing right now, except with our situation being so temporary and uncertain, it's hard to try to make those playdates, even with the couple of kids she'd like to pursue more of a friendship with.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous orangemanmike said...

Having been in Julia's position (albeit while quite a bit older than she), I certainly know how hard it is. Three states in 5 years, 3 highschools in 4 years - being older doesn't make it easier. However, each move got a little easier and you ultimately learn how to make friends quickly.

2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This made me cry. I can picture Julia playing with the girls and working to fit in. I hope that someone realizes what a gem she is. And I wish the same for you, too.

6:16 AM  

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