There was a little party at John’s “school” last night to celebrate his class, many of whom will be heading off to various big kid schools after the summer, or maybe to different classes at the elementary school here in town. I don’t want to be overly melodramatic here (they’re starting kindergarten in the fall, not college), but it’s hard not to think that this is a pretty big deal.
John’s been with the same group of friends since most of them were just a few months old. Their names—Luuuuuk (for Luke), DeeDee (for Dylan), and Mo (for Simone)—were some of his very first words. I think Aidan might have been his final inspiration to get up and walk. They’ve been thick as thieves for their entire lives, and take each other for granted in a way that seems like family to me.
As an only child, John sometimes gets wide-eyed when he watches siblings playing–loving but also rowdy and silly, maybe a little bit over the top. It’s a dynamic that just doesn’t exist at our house, unless you count his occasional scraps with our cat. These school friends have really given him a taste of it for himself, and I mean that in a good way.
They took his toys when they were toddlers and he learned to stand up for himself. They try new foods, so he tries them, too. They put their heads underwater, so down he goes. He’s learned to negotiate with them (pirate captain vs. first mate), to share, to cooperate, to take turns, to say sorry. They applaud each other’s accomplishments (“Great throw, Dylan!”), and comfort each other over disappointments or scraped knees. Now that they’re a little older, they compare notes on their favorite sports teams and talk about their plans for the weekends, just like the big guys do.
I’ve always thought of pre-school playmates as just that: playmates. Kids around the same age whose moms like each other enough to get them together on a lazy afternoon. I understand now that even at the age of four, a friend can be the real thing.