When we were kids, my mom did not have a lot of patience for whining. A non-stop ball of energy, she, to this day, delights in digging large holes, tearing holes in things like walls and roofs (sometimes other people's roofs), fitting things in her car that don't actually fit, and getting more accomplished in a day at age 72 than most people do in a lifetime. She moves fast. She never had patience for my sister and I whining and complaining. Her stock answer to anything (collapsed tent, lost homework, concussion) was "For heaven's sake girls. You'll be fine!" And I have to say, she was usually right. After whatever crisis it was had passed, and maybe after some emotional upset --which is after all, part of life!--we were always fine.
This year, my older son started high school. I was a walking wreck. I couldn't sleep for three nights. My stomach was a mess. My son did not seem to be particularly worried- it was all me. Maybe it was because I can't believe he is old enough to be in high school, because he is only 4 years from "leaving home," or because my little pooky, who used to spend all day singing the "Dig Dig Diggy" song and calling Mr. FixIt on his plastic phone! is now shaving, saving up for a truck, and attending events where there is "twerking." (Yes, I have become a walking cliche--where did the time go? )
When my boys were little, they had to do a lot of things they weren't too excited about, like moving five times in elementary school, switching schools six times each, and going to endless camps and sports team in new neighborhoods where they didn't know a soul. Every time we arrived at a new school or camp, they would watch all the other kids hug their friends and form little groups, and then they would walk in alone, and wait until an adult took over.
"Don't worry," I would say every time, although sadness for them was liquefying my stomach-- "You'll be fine. I promise. It will be ok by the end of the day."
Every time we moved, the kids were excited for the cross-states trip (my husband was in the Air Force, which sent us all over the Midwest), the new house, their new bedrooms, and exploring our new town--that is, until the night before the first day of school. Then it hit them that none of their friends from last year would be there, and that once again, they wouldn't know a soul--and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I assured them again and again, "It's a whole new year, a new class, everyone will be making friends. By the end of the first day, you'll have a friend. You'll be fine. I promise."
We always moved in the summer and, despite my desperate attempts to meet somewhat normal looking people on the playground ("Hi! How old is he? Do you live near here? Wait, don't go!") -- we always completely failed to make any friends. It was the same every time--every single kid we met was either staying with a divorced parent and weren't near their own school, or they were visiting grandparents or cousins. Usually I gave up, totally depressed, not having made a single connection for the kids, and we went to visit their own grandparents for the rest of the summer.
At one camp where we parked the kids for a week so we could unpack the house, all the other boys in the bunk--all old friends from school-- made blanket forts at rest hour, walling out the two new kids who didn't have any friends. My kids said camp was great-- except for rest hour. My younger son dealt with it by reading a book or pretending to sleep, while the other one hung around the snack shop. They didn't love it. It wasn't great. But they knew it would be over in a week. They had learned the difference between something they just didn't like, and something that was actually bad. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't great. Unlike it Disney movies and sitcoms, real life is often like that.
I have watched in astonishment over the years as other moms (pretty much all moms--not any dads I can think of), have fretted, stressed, and completely freaked out over whether or not their kid will have their best friend in her class, on his soccer team, at camp, at Safety Town, on the bus--to the point where I have seen moms calling soccer coaches or gymnastics instructors or principals in hysterics--making threats, crying, and ranting to other moms about now it's not fair! My child can't be on that team or on that classroom all alone!
I always wanted to say, God almighty lady, you and your kid need a big dose of "You'll be fine!" So what if your kid has to walk in alone? Then what? Worst case scenario, no one will talk to her, she'll be a little bummed out for an hour, and the next time she's with her friends and there is a new kid all alone, maybe she'll reach out, because now she knows how it feels. Best case scenario--hey, she'll make a new friend. Both of these options are really not that bad! Especially if you remind yourself, these are we-don't-live-in-Liberia-or-Afghanistan-and-have-plenty-to-eat types of problems!
My older son got up at 5:30 am and took the bus to high school on the first day. Two hours later, I drove his younger brother to his school. I was freaking out the whole time, asking my younger son, did he think his brother would be ok? Would he find someone to sit with at lunch? Would he get stuffed in a locker? Would he get a whirlie? Would he get lost?
My younger son sighed and looked at me steadily with his big green eyes.
"Mom," he said calmly, "I promise. He'll be fine."