One of the things I’m most excited about our move into a different neighborhood is the potential for Rowan to meet kids his own age. Our current neighborhood, while sleepy and serene and relatively safe, doesn’t boast a lot of families with younger children, at least not within our immediate vicinity. To the left is an elder care home, to the right is a family with one very quiet and sort of strange boy in high school, and across the street is a much older woman who lives alone and bosses around her next door neighbor, a single man who helps her with yard work. I’ve long longed for neighbors with young children to move onto our street so that Rowan could have a nearby playmate, but now it doesn’t matter since we’re moving.
The good news is, our new neighborhood seems to be rife with families, thanks in part to a nearby playground and access to decent schools, and supposedly, there’s a 4-year-old boy who lives next door to our new house. That detail was not lost on me as we debated the pros and cons of the house and neighborhood. Perhaps even Roth and I will make some new friends, too?
As Rowan gets older, I worry that he’s not being socialized enough. He’s still at the same in-home daycare where once he was the youngest, but now he is the oldest. He has “friends” at daycare, but they come and go with the changing of the seasons and since I rarely, if ever, see their parents except in passing, those friendships haven’t ever extended beyond weekday, workday hours. I’ve thought about inviting Rowan’s daycare buddies to his birthday parties, but most of the families live on the East side, and it’s just never happened.
For the most part, though, Rowan IS a very social little guy. Before our Florida vacation in July, he knew there was going to be another little boy at the reunion. Devlin, who is Roth’s mom’s cousin’s daughter’s 4-year-old son, met Rowan our first morning, and immediately, the two of them were best friends. It was like magic how quickly they took to each other. Each night before bed, after very long days under the hot, sticky sun, they would hug and sometimes even kiss each other goodnight! (Kissing third cousins!) It made me wish we lived closer to Devlin and his mom (they live in Manhattan), or that he had first cousins of his own. Rowan still talks about Devlin some two months later.
I’ve watched him on the playground with kids he doesn’t know, quick to find a kindred spirit with which to climb up the slide the wrong way. I’ve also seen jerk kids completely rebuff his attempts to play with them, which is a pretty crappy part of parenthood, having to explain to your child that not all kids are as great as he is, and to just move on, forget about it.
Rejection is not lost on him at 3.5-years-old, either. A few weeks ago, an older girl at the nearby school playground flat-out said to Rowan, “I don’t like you. I hate you.” It took all of me to not slap that little ragamuffin for being such a brat to an obviously younger kid who only wanted her to pretend with him to make pies with the playground woodchips. (She also said, “I hate pie.” I’m sorry, but her parents ain’t raising her right.) We left a few minutes later, but Rowan kept bringing it up after we’d gotten home, asking us why this girl was so mean. He still brings up the one time my mom took him to a playground in California, and two older boys said “mean things” to him. Le sigh. I fear this is just the beginning.
As an aside, there is a new girl at daycare who comes in the afternoon after half-day kindergarten. On her first day, Rowan brought her to the door when I picked him up and said to her, “And this is my mom.” I about melted. This whole week, he’s talked a lot about “Lanie.” Daycare Lady said the two of them hit it off immediately. It just makes me so happy that he can make friends so quickly. Also, is it possible he has his first crush?
Now that we’re headed to a better neighborhood, we’re discussing preschool options, too. Since Rowan has a very late birthday, he’s still two years out from starting kindergarten, but I do want to get him into a more structured program at least year before elementary school. Now that he is the oldest at daycare (outside of Lanie, who is only there part time), I think he’s more than ready to be challenged, both academically and socially, by preschool. Clearly, he is a bright child with an open heart, but it’s soon time for him to try something new.