Friday, September 18, 2009

Making Friends

Roman started school several weeks ago. This move and new school makes this Roman's third school in three years.

He attended private kindergarten through his daycare center. Then he attended first grade at the public elementary school just down the street from us in Salt Lake City. Now he is attending the public elementary school right next door to us here in Iowa.

All these transitions make me worried.

Roman is shy, sometimes painfully so. He doesn't make friends easily. He is not a leader in groups of children, much more content to just go along with what other children are doing. Since school started (and even weeks before it did) I kept wondering how he was going to do.

Roman seems unfazed.

The day before school started, I asked him if there was anything he was worried about regarding the first day of school.

"No, I'm not worried. It's everyone's first day."

If only I could have that attitude more often.

Every day since that, I ask him about school. What he did during the day, what his favorite activity was. Between the questions about art class and gym, I ask about friends. Does he know the names of the children in his class? Who did he play with at recess? Has he made any friends?

Last week, he caught me at my worrying.

"Why do you ask every day if I have friends?"

"Because I don't want you to be lonely." That's what I said out loud. But it felt more like I was screaming it in my head. Because I want you to have friends, I want you to adjust well, I don't want you to ever resent me for taking you away from the handful of friends it took you over a year to make back in Utah. And almost like he hears the screaming and the panic, he stops me in my tracks.

"Don't worry. I'm never lonely."

The most natural feeling I have is one of protection. I want to shield my children from everything. From every hurt, from every disappointment, for every disturbing image on the news. I want them to be happy, secure, safe. I want them to have a feeling of belonging. Despite the drive to over-protect them, the boys continue to show that they are adjusting well, that they are happy.

One of the reasons we chose to come to Iowa (among many others) was the quality of the schools. When I was interviewing in Denver, I asked how the schools were. Oh, the schools were wonderful, I was reassured. Everyone was very happy with the schools, there were so many amazing options. Just one thing, I was cautioned several times. Stay away from DPS. Denver Public Schools. Well that's just great. A single family income, surviving on a resident's salary, and I was going to be expected to enroll my children in private school and pay for that too.

The city in Iowa we live in has no private schools. There is a Catholic high school, but half the children attending are not Catholic. There are no private schools to lure the best teachers away. There are no private schools for all the university professionals. Doctors', professors', and lawyers' children attend the same schools as the children of janitors, waitresses, and truck drivers. Without the option to abandon the public schools, families have invested in them, all resources go to them, and the outcome is amazing. The public school system is one of the best in the country.

I received a note from Roman's school today, and I'm attributing it to the caliber of the school. Roman has been enrolled with a guidance counselor. He is going to attend weekly small group sessions that focus on developing friendships. Some of the children in the group are new to the school. Each week, they talk about skills to make friends and good qualities of friends and friendships. They play group games. All with the goal of helping them to know other children better.

It seems like someone else (Roman's amazing teacher) noticed the same thing that has been causing me anxiety. Roman has not made any friends after nearly a month of school.

But instead of just letting it continue and allowing him to continue to be isolated and potentially struggle because of that, they have options.

I'm excited for the weekly sessions. I'm hoping it is the difference we need, me almost as much as Roman. Because he deserves everything I want for him.


  1. Sounds like a great school. We do similar groups at our school. He'll be fine. First graders take a little longer to make friends, it seems. :)

  2. P.S. I left something for you on my blog!

  3. Roman lives in a warm world, surrounded by love and light. You do a good job; Keith does a good job. He has a great school. He will blossom. Thanks for sharing hims with us!!!