In the beginning of the school year, F. talked endlessly about his new friend’s love of Mario Bros. and their shared strategy on reaching World 6. Six months later, the friendship continues. The two eat lunch together, play at recess and trade all levels of knowledge on Pokomon.
Never once in all this time does F. mention that his friend wears braces on his legs. He simply doesn’t see them. It doesn’t define his friend or the friendship that the two share.
Don’t you love how kids only see the important stuff?
It’s spring break and we’re housebound with the new puppy so we invite the boy over to play. I figure they’ll stay in the yard or walk Lucky down the sidewalk.
I should know by now that boys make their own plans.
“Mommm,” F. yells from the yard. “We’re heading to the creek!”
My boys love to explore the creek that runs along the length of our yard and twists its way to Montgomery Park. There are drops and ditches, a half-mile obstacle of animal holes and fallen branches.
My mind jumps ahead to all the things that might go wrong. Oh, this may be a bad idea, I think. My kids know every slope of the woods, what to avoid, where to slow down. This little boy doesn’t. Plus, what if he gets hurt? With his braces, is he physically capable?
“Have you ever done creek exploring?” I stall.
“No! Never!” He grins. He's clearly thrilled with the idea which oddly doesn’t make me feel better.
I remember what a college friend who volunteered her summers at a camp for kids with cancer once said: Kids just want to feel normal.
It’s a great lesson for us all to learn and it shouldn’t apply only to kids. Those who might be perceived as different want to be included. We all have our struggles. It’s just the ones on the outside are easier to see.
“Mommmmm, we’ll stay together,” F. says in an exasperated tone.
“And help each other if someone needs help,” I’m still not 100-percent certain but trust my oldest to keep a watchful eye.
“Just be extra careful,” I say and find myself a nice spot of grass near the creek’s mouth within earshot of any trouble.
An hour later, I slip on my rubber boots and go hunting for them. My nerves can’t take it. I find my three boys, this boy and two others playing a pick-up game of hockey on a near-by driveway. The boys successfully navigated their way through the mud (which covers their pants) and water (which wets their shoes) to the lower side of the creek. They did it. Each grins wildly.
When we drop the friend at home an hour later, I walk in to explain to the mom about the mud.
“I hope it’s OK. They got a little dirty.”
“It’s fine,” she interrupts. “He doesn’t get to do boy stuff like that often.”
She’s not upset. Instead she thanks me. For letting her son run wild in the woods and ruin his pants. Just like any other boy.