Until recently, Katie couldn't pronounce "fr" so the children she'd meet and play with came to be known as her "sriends". She had sriends everywhere she went, as long as they were around her age. Our child changes from shy around grownups she doesn't know to gregarious and huggy around children whether she knows them or not.
I'm the same way. Kids are just so much easier to feel at ease around. They can say things that would normally be humiliating, but with no judgment, just pure observation, so it doesn't hurt like it would if a more world-weary person said the same thing: "Aunt Becky, why do you always have chicken pox?" asked my young niece about my cystic acne when I was a teenager. Or, "I can't pick you up, Mama, because your buns are too fat!" My daughter informed me just the other day.
Sriends are a big deal to most anyone, but especially kids without siblings their own age. My brothers and sisters are all between fifteen and eight years older than I am. So even though they played with me, it wasn't the same as getting to play with sriends my own age.
Will and I have made a point to take Katie places where she has access to kids her own age--the neighborhood playgrounds, the indoor explorer room at our local community center, even the indoor play areas at McDonald's and the mall, places that would normally make me gag at their blatant display of captialism. What hardships suburban hippie parents of only children must face to socialize their progeny.
Now that Katie is in school, she's got sriends galore. She's had the same best sriend since day one. I'll call the little girl Elena to protect her identity. As soon as Elena strode into the classroom, took her seat next to Katie and announced, "Hi, I'm Elena. Wanna be my friend?" it was a done deal. Elena has since been moved to another table and Katie has new sriends, but she invariably inserts the word "best" before the word sriend when she talks about Elena.
Today as Katie and I approached the school, hand in hand, Elena's car drove past us walking along the sidewalk. Elena stuck her head out the back window and shouted, "Hi, Katie!" Katie immediately picked up her pace and let go of my hand to wave back, calling out to the passing car, "Hi, Elena!"
By the time we got to where her dad had stopped at the curb, Elena was on the sidewalk waiting for Katie. They immediately grabbed each other's hands. I didn't feel like a third wheel. More like a training wheel. After I held the straps for Elena so she could put on her backpack, I had to butt my face in between them to steal a kiss from Katie. Both girls said goodbye to me, then turned to walk each other to class. I heard Katie say to Elena, "Hi Friend! Fancy bumping into you here!" Without warning, her "sriend" turned into a "friend." I couldn't help but smile.
I watched them for a bit, in a daze, blocking pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. I must have looked like a goon to all the parents, but I'm sure the kids all around understood how I felt.