“Can I invite Jill on Saturday?”
This question came from my son in the back seat as we drove home this afternoon. Our town is having a fair on Saturday, a festival of entertainment that celebrates our community by providing fundraising opportunities for town youth groups and non-profits, and highlights the work of our town’s service organizations. The town center is closed to all traffic, and the streets come alive with pedestrians swarming and darting where there are normally only cars.
The fire and police stations are open to the attendees, and the kids get to climb up into a fire truck and sit in a police car, complete with the opportunity to sound the sirens. There are bouncy houses, miniature golf, electronic race car courses, food stands, and all sorts of demonstrations and vendors. It’s kind of like a parent approved free-for-all for the kids. There are police everywhere, and kids don’t stray too far from their parents, as one or both hold the key to a successful day: the money.
For the past two years, my son has invited his friend, Jack, from nursery school, whose mother became a good friend once the boys began begging us for playdates. Although our boys attend different schools and we live about 25 miles apart, we try to get together every couple of months, more if time and scheduling permits. Jack and his mother will come again this year, and we plan to ride our bikes down to the town center from my house. Both boys enjoy riding, as long as the riding involves their tandem bikes.
And then today my little guy tossed out his request to invite Jill.
Jill is an eighth grader at his school and the daughter of a school administrator. She is a lovely young woman and I enjoy watching them interact. It is sweet that The Boy has such a great relationship with her. He often talks to me about playing with Jill on the playground during recess, and how he really likes that she pushes him and his friends on the swings. One day toward the end of the summer, when The Boy was getting a little nervous about going back to school in general, and in particular about starting kindergarten and having full days, I opened the mailbox and there was a letter for him.
It was from Jill. She wrote that she missed him and was looking forward to seeing him back at school and hanging out and playing with him at recess. My heart melted as I read the letter to my son and I saw his eyes light up.
Upon the kids’ return to school, I told Jill’s mother what a sweet gesture I thought her letter was. Her mother relayed that Jill had asked if she could write to my son because she missed him and wanted to make sure he was having a good summer. A few days after school began, The Boy and I arrived at drop-off at the same time as Jill and her mother. Jill bounded out of the car and yelled a hello to my son, then scampered over to walk in with him. He let got of my hand and took hers, then happily skipped away with her.
When Ernie and I were looking at schools for The Boy, one of the things I loved most about his now-school was that they allow children to be children and encourage the older kids to interact with the younger ones. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work out in practice. Seeing his smile when I drop him off and pick him up, hearing the excitement in his voice when he tells me about something new he’s learning, and watching the relationship develop between my son and his eighth grade friend, I’m thrilled with the decision we made.