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Autumn Chooses Her First Friend

At Autumn’s 2.5 year check up, her pediatrician said pedaling is a skill kids acquire at this age.

“Perfect!” I said. “I’ll get her a t-r-i-c-y-c-l-e.”

She rode that pink Radio Flyer the day she got it, and then donated it to the dust in the garage, having taken as much interest in it as she does peas and broccoli.

So many of my childhood memories include zipping up and down sidewalks, dinging handlebar bells and honking rubber horns, us younger kids on our hot cycles dodging siblings on banana seats. But Autumn didn’t have a sidewalk or a sibling or a neighborhood friend. And while the former two weren’t in the works, I held out hope for the latter. For months, we’d be drawing with chalk or blowing bubbles and I’d see flashes of kids – leaving houses, getting into cars – but never did I invite Newness into our Autumn-Tod-Mommy bubble.

Then one day, Newness invited itself. Right from next door. It started off with the calm of a young pleasant mom and her toddler, and followed with the chaos of her sugared six-year old. Maybe it’s because he’s older or a boy or easily accessible, but no matter the reason, Autumn is smitten.

She giggles. “Mommy, say it with me,” she whispers, at which point I convince her she can do it herself. She musters courage, and in her sweet little voice sing-songs over the fence:

“A-mir!”

He peeks his head out of his second story window.

“Hey! I’ll come play!”

For a few days, it was picture perfect – exactly what I’d imagined for my daughter – just like the writers of an 80s sitcom would’ve penned. The good-looking older dad, cool younger mom, adorable sister and a friend for Autumn.

But along with characters and settings, good shows have plenty of conflict, and so, too, does ours. Because after our first few yard encounters, Autumn spent time inside their house.

“Did you have fun?” I said, marking down that day as her first play date with a friend she chose on her own. I remember loving going to friends’ houses and especially loving eating their lard-filled Oreos that were off-limits at mine.

“We played video games, and I went on his computer,” Autumn said. My daughter had found the house with her version of chocolate cookies.

Then it was our turn to host.

Although I don’t have a photo of my mom’s facial expression when Amir pounced on our table like Mario jumping on a mushroom, my mind will never forget it. Nor will I ever unsee the disappointment on my daughter’s face when he wouldn’t listen to her read her special story or play her favorite game.

I’ve reflected on the short time he spent playing at our house. I got frustrated and depressed, wondering if Autumn would be so drawn to him if she had a sister or brother. Then, I found peace.

No doubt in her life, Autumn will meet people who don’t show her respect, who don’t value her opinion or take joy in her gifts. Most will not adore her as much as I do and certainly, none will be perfect.

Then again, neither are we. Sometimes, she doesn’t want to share. And sometimes, I say not nice things. And too many times, in the past, I’ve been far too judgmental, to this day paying the price.

I think of the special strawberries and chocolate his family shared, how happy Autumn was splashing in his kiddie pool, and how excited she gets at the mention of his name. I remember how he took her hand when she walked along the brick ledge, and how she told me he offered help when she scooted down his stairs.

I remember that every story has a theme, a lesson to be learned, and I remind myself that all of us, despite our faults, deserve acceptance.

And who knows? Perhaps someday, when they’re grown, they’ll ride off into the sunset. But in the meantime, maybe they’ll just ride.

Mommy On.




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