I Didn’t Want That.

Shane had an all-day field trip to the Chesapeake Bay, and I chaperoned.  He’s been talking for a week about sitting with Andrew on the bus, but when we arrived, I could tell that Andrew wasn’t an option as a seat partner.  Shane hung back, way at the end of the line – mainly because I was so late in getting him there, but also because that’s how he is.  He would never just walk up and stand next to his friend.  Shane is a rules follower.  He goes to the end of the line.

The ride was 2 hours long.  When we arrived, I asked Shane, “How was the bus ride?”

“Good,” he said.

“Did you read Harry Potter?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I didn’t sit with anybody.”

“You got the whole seat to yourself?” I asked.  “That’s good.”

“I didn’t want that,” he said.  Tears sprang to his eyes.  He immediately choked them down and stopped talking about it.

He’d spent two hours wishing he had someone to sit with – and no one sat with him.  He’s a sweet, lovable kid – but he would never sit near someone and talk across the aisle.  He wouldn’t sit on his knees and talk to the people in the seat behind him.  He’s an introvert and a loner.  We know this.

So when I watched him at the field trip, it was no surprise.  There were four boys in our group, none of them his intellectual equal.  One of them was in my math group last year, when I volunteered to help teach third grade math.  I was teaching him to count by 2’s and 3’s – a skill Shane mastered when he was in preschool.

Still, I tried to get them together, because they were partners for some activities.  They did their activities together, and then the boy ran to be with his friends.  Shane walked by himself, sometimes with me, sometimes spinning in circles as he went.  He had not a care in the world – but I was crushed.  Why didn’t he talk to anyone?  If he wanted someone to be with him, why didn’t he get out of his comfort zone a bit and talk to someone?

After more than an hour, Celeste – a girl he’s known since 2nd grade – started talking to him.  They talked and talked and talked.  They compared shell collections and discussed their field trip activities.  They were in synch, in tune, able to communicate.  They ate lunch together and alone, still talking, while the other kids bunched together in their groups at tables of six or eight.

Celeste is smart, sweet and fun.  Shane has been begging me for a playdate with her for two months.  And I told him to find a boy instead.

This is why I chaperone.  Sure, I like to go places and see the things they do.  But mostly, I get to see my child in action, in his social group, with his peers.  I learn more about him in one day than I can learn in a whole week of asking questions about his day.

Today, I will email Celeste’s mom with one of the many pictures I took, and invite her over for a playdate.  And I’ll wonder all day long why I couldn’t just listen to my son.


  1. Kelli says:

    If it makes you feel any better, when I saw the title, I thought it was about one of your kids complaining about something you’d given them, maybe in their lunch. That’s the dark side of when kids have NO trouble speaking their minds. 🙂

    Maybe you can point out when you do something out of your comfort zone… as in, “Wow, I was nervous/intimidated/scared to talk to that person I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure she was going to like me… but I’m glad I did. It was actually fun to hear about her trip to New York…” Or some such thing. My kids always think that I’m completely confident in every situation — they’re really surprised when I say that I was nervous or unsure. But I think it normalizes a bit when they have those feelings.

    • I, too, am really surprised that you are ever nervous or unsure! I like the idea of modeling the good behavior. I’m noticing lately (quite a bit) that the kids are doing what I do, rather than what I say, more so than ever. I’d heard it, but I always hoped MY kids would be the exception! Just not happening… 🙂

  2. Mum says:

    Welcome to my world 40 years ago. My heart is breaking.

    • I thought about mentioning that he is just like me… I’m trying to let him be HIM, and for the most part, he seems happy. He is only drawn to kids who are really, really smart. He likes other kids, but doesn’t seem to have any interest in spending time with them. Emailing Celeste’s mom now…

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