A Seemingly Shy Kid’s Unlikely Friends

Yesterday Felix and I went to a crowded playground. The weather was cloudy but warm, and kids thronged the climbing equipment, waded in pools of water, and frolicked in the sprinklers. My four-year-old son took a spin around the yard and then returned to my side. “I want to play with you in the sprinklers,” he said.

“I don’t want to get wet,” I told him. “Why don’t you go play with one of the kids over there.”

“It’s ok, Daddy,” he said. “You don’t have to get wet. We can still play.”

And so we played in (or, in my case, near) the sprinklers, and then on the monkey bars, and finally Felix rested his head against me and took a snack break. All in all, we spent about an hour and a half at the playground, most of the time together except for the few stretches Felix trotted about solo. During that time he didn’t say a word to another child, nor did he express any interest in doing so.

Afterward, we met an old friend of mine for lunch. My son’s tricycle hadn’t even come to a stop when he hopped off and started talking to the guy. “My mommy fixed my training wheel bike so now it doesn’t wobble,” he said, instead of hello. “But I still don’t like riding down hills on it; it goes too fast. You know I ride a big boy bike now? I’m four.” And then he looked at me. “Right? I’m four?” He then proceeded to talk my friend’s ear off for a few minutes about how he goes to garden class now, and how he’s going to get a grilled cheese for lunch, and how soon we’re going to visit my parents for the weekend.

The kid just seems to prefer talking with grown-ups then his own peers, which causes some hesitation on his part whenever anyone asks about his friends. There are kids he holds near and dear to his heart, for sure, but they’re not bosom buddies in any sense of the word. In fact, he hardly says word one to them. Even on play dates, he often asks for me to play with him and his companions. “Let’s play hide-and-seek,” he’ll say to his friend. “My daddy can find us.” (Uh, no thanks.) Sometimes, if he wants to say something to a compadre, he tells me, and then asks me to pass the message on for him.

It’s quite a different story when we meet up with an adult, even if it’s a person he’s encountering for the first time, or doesn’t know so well. Then he’s friendly and confidant, earning the distinction of “very verbal” from most people. (In fact, he can be pretty precocious. One time a friend came over and bought him ice cream, and Felix now thinks she’s his buddy, not mine.)

Perhaps this is the result of him being an only child, or my bringing him on adults-only hang-outs from an early age, or could be just a predisposition toward talking to his rational, relatively stable, and predictable elders. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with grown-ups and often felt shy around people my own age. Sad to say: as a high schooler, the majority of my Friday nights I spent home, with my parents and their friends, eating ice cream and watching movies. That’s some crazy teenage rebellion, eh?

I think some kids just move at a slower pace socially then others, and prefer the safety of adults to the zaniness of their peers. With that in mind, I made a list of Felix’s unusual friends, not all of whom are human. Rather than kids his own age, these are the people and things he’d rather talk to.

  • A tender scene with Jesse the Cowgirl — Make that four Jesse the Cowgirls! 1 of 6
    first slide

    Yes, Felix loved talking to his Jesse dolls once upon a time. Click on to find out who else he counts among his friends...

  • His Grandparents 2 of 6

    Whether over Skype or in person, Felix enjoys chatting and playing pretend with his grandparents. Mostly, he tells them about the latest fun thing he's been up to. Then he wants to check in on the things that he associates with them. "I want to see Benny," he'll tell my dad, referring to my dad's dog. Or, "Have you gone blueberry picking?" he'll ask his grandmother, my mother-in-law. I think he figures that his grandparents do just what they do with him when he's gone.  

  • His Babysitter 3 of 6

    We're lucky to have an awesome babysitter who is also a rising star: Bridget Davis, who writes and belts out some lovely tunes. (You can hear some great songs by clicking here.) Sometimes, when she leaves, he tells me, "I love Bridgin (as he calls her) and wish she never has to go." Really he sees her as part of the family, and he'll tell us about her roommates and what they're up to, and how Bridgin is really good at reading stories. (There are some books that only she gets to read him.) Their friendship is very warming to witness.

  • His Big Baby 4 of 6
    big baby

    Sometimes at night, or during quiet time (which we call sha-sha), I'll overhear him whispering with this kind of creepy baby who he just loves. Is he conspiring to play a trick on us? Opening up about his fears? Or perhaps sharing a recipe for how to make peanut-butter cracker spiders, as he did with me this afternoon? (They sound delicious.) Who knows. But no matter how many times I imagine that the doll's giving me the evil eye, it's always sweet to see Felix curled up in bed with his arm around the thing.

  • Me! 5 of 6

    Oh alright, his mom too. Though what's funny is that when he is apart from us, he's often reticent to tell us what he did. "It's a secret," he'll say, when we ask what he was up to with Bridget, or in class. But when we are around, he talks our ears off about all kinds of stuff — the weather, how he likes to count and can count to twenty-one (he can't), or how the R train is closed for a really long time (my lil' New Yorker!). Right now, there's no filter. If it's on his mind, it pops out. And according to him, Mommy and Daddy are his best friends... yikes!

  • Babble Blogger Development Lead Lindsay Hood 6 of 6

    "I'm four and I go to a class now but soon I'm going to go to big boy school where I'll have to say goodbye to mommy and daddy but only for a little while," was basically how he greeted Lindsay, who met us for ice cream last week. I think she was the only Babble employee Felix said hi to when we stopped in at the office— he seemed a little overwhelmed by all the new faces (understandably). Lindsay, though, he targeted as "daddy's friend."

    He's a pretty smart communicator when talking to my friends, as he knows everyone enjoys talking about food. In Lindsay's case: "Do you like black raspberry ice cream? Because that's my favorite! Strawberry and chocolate are my best too."

    This is advice I've started taking when out at a party. In addition to the weather, most people like talking about what they eat. So thanks, kid. You may not be adept at talking to your own peers, but you've certainly helped your dad become a better schmoozer!

Article Posted 3 years Ago

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