Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nigel No-Friends

The other day, the kids and I were in the car, on our way home from Miss Babysitter's house. It was that magical time in the afternoon when all of the school buses are out delivering kids to their homes, where they will run inside and have snacks and avoid doing their homework for a little while. We came upon a school bus doing a drop-off when I pulled into the turn lane for our apartment complex, and so I paused and we watched it.

Scarlett was excited. She LOVES school buses. Loves them. She desperately wants to go to school, and ride on a school bus to get there. There are times when I must explain to her every day of the week why she cannot go yet. So when we saw the kids getting off the bus, Scarlett said, "Look, Mommy! Those are my FRIENDS! I want to say hi to my friends."

So I rolled down her window, and as we drove past all the kids walking to their apartments, Scarlett shouted at them with glee: "Hi, guys! Hiiiii! Hi, friends!"

When she does this, it is so darn cute that my heart just about bursts. I'm almost tearing up just thinking about how cute it was. My daughter does not know a stranger. She will say hello to anyone. She calls every single child she sees "my friend" regardless of how old they might be or the fact that she doesn't actually know them.

She is completely unlike me.

As a child, my Mom tells me I rarely talked at all. My sister says I would hide in the cupboard when people came over to our house. As an adult, not much has changed. I'm almost incapable of having conversations with people. Not because I'm mean or snobby. Because I just don't know what to say, and I really worry about saying something and sounding weird or stupid.

I've tried to explain to other people how neurotic I am. They don't get it. In college, I took a psychology course called Tests and Measurements. The professor had us take some diagnostic tests. For fun, and also to see how the testing and scoring worked. One of these tests measured how neurotic you are. After scoring your test, you were supposed to plot your score on a graph. The professor called out the scoring range and told us where we should plot our score accordingly.

I raised my hand. "What if your score is off the chart?" This was not a hypothetical question. My score was higher than the range he had given.

The professor seemed perplexed. "Your score can't be off the chart," he said. He assumed I must have scored my test incorrectly. So he came over and went through every single question with me, and the scores for each answer I had given. When it turned out that I did score it correctly? He seemed at a loss for what to say. He was, as they say, nonplussed.

It didn't help that my friend Amanda, who was sitting right next to me, was giggling uncontrollably.

"Well," I said finally, "Looks like I'm your new best friend!" Because he was a Psych professor. And I was obviously mental. He thought that was very funny. And Amanda? She snorted, she was laughing so hard.

So when I say that my social anxiety is crippling? I am very, very serious. And I feel so guilty that my gorgeous daughters are stuck with me. Because the thought of going to playgroups or the playground? Ack. A sleepover party with a handful of friends over? Cold sweat. A birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese with their entire school class invited, and all of their parents? Nuclear meltdown!

I was thinking about all of this after we went inside, while I was changing Sosie's diaper. What if I keep my daughters from making friends, simply because I cannot bear to be in these social situations? Will they be embarrassed of me? Will they wish they had a different mother?

I feel little arms wrap around my shoulders. Scarlett has given me a spontaneous hug. "I love you, Mommy."

Yes, she does. And I love her. So much. So I'd better get prepared for those horrible birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese. Because it's only three more years until she starts school.

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