I have failed in nearly every way to ease Lea's entrance into preschool. This has been nowhere more obvious than in my stunning ability to ignore—time and time again since September, mind you—her squeaky requests for a playdate with gypsy-skirted A., she of the long, tangled red hair and beguiling freckles. Until recently, Lea adored this girl only from afar and had not been able to utter more than a whispered greeting on any given day. This made the possibility of an initial playdate a lot of work. Work which I, out of general laziness and selfishness, had very little interest in pursuing.
I do not know A.'s mom, so securing said playdate would require my striking up if not a friendship, than at least a few instances of casual conversation during which I showcased via a combination of wit and gentle humor, my trustworthiness, responsibility, and general goodness as a mother. I would also have to walk Lea up to A. several times to encourage the actual audible mouthing of the words, "Hi" and "Bye! See you on Wednesday!" I didn't do any of these things. Lea finally took matters into her own hands and asked her sisters for help in making a card for A. They did this happily, and Lea placed the declaration of love in A.'s cubby right before the Winter Break. An ecstatic celebration occurred when, a week later, Lea received a holiday card from A. delivered right to our mailbox.
All seemed well.
Except following the Break I did not take advantage of the leeway made during their mini epistolary lovefest. A.'s mom and I smiled at each other in passing, but I never ventured a word. She is one of the "new" moms who hangs in a gaggle of others who drop off their 3-year-olds and then stand around chatting while cradling newborns or holding a one-year-old on their hip. I, on the other hand, am a "senior" mom who wants nothing more than to make a clean getaway so as to squeeze as many childfree minutes out of the morning as possible.
Fast forward to last month. Though my negligence continued to produce tiny pangs of guilt, I felt pretty much in the clear in regards to A. Lea wasn't asking for a playdate as much anymore; perhaps the romance had worn off. But then.
While putting Lea to sleep one night, she burst quite suddenly into a flood of tears. "What's wrong? What's wrong?!" I said.
"This was the worst day evah! A. is D.'s friend and S.'s friend, but not mine. It's ovah!"
It's over. That just about killed me. She threw her arms around me and cried herself to sleep while I finally faced the facts: I had never managed to screw up motherhood this badly before.
The next day, I quickly got to work. I explained that in order to have a playdate with someone, you had to speak to them; you had to make friends. I coached her to look for conversational opportunities! I told her that people always like to hear nice things about their hair clips, tights, and ability to quickly change from the Snow White dress-up gown to the Sleeping Beauty dress-up gown! I told her that smiles make friends! She soaked in this priceless information and each day reported her progress. "I talked to A. today!" she'd say. And I'd say, "You did? What did you say?" And she'd say, "I don't know! I don't remember!"
Meanwhile, I started exchanging clever remarks with A.'s mom (a very nice and lovely person) in the cubby room. Things moved slowly but steadily until Lea delivered one more card: a drawing of a princess made with help from her babysitter and festooned with one of those leftover chalky Valentine hearts bearing the words, "So fine." That was Monday. And today? Today I can say with shaky confidence that Lea has finally made a friend.