Let me just say that our new apartment complex is crawling with children. Every way you look at almost all hours of the day are children of all ages. Some of these children are active and playing in groups and others seem to be wandering a little bit. Some are well supervised, some are not. We seem to have attracted a wanderer.
This little boy is 10 and has taken to knocking on our door 3-4 times/day asking if he can come inside and play. I've been trying to encourage the kids to play in the fenced in field behind the building with a soccer ball or some other such active play, but this boy just wants to play with the kids toys. We have stairs outside our front door and he wants the kids to bring out their trains and cars and play on the steps.
But what he really wants is to come play inside.
I asked about his mom and he says she is sleeping. I asked how she knows where to find him if she needs him and he says she never needs him.
I'm torn between being very irritated by this boy's lack of boundaries (and his mother's) and feeling sad that he truly seems to have no place to go during the hot times of the day. (He also is a regular knocker at our downstairs neighbor's door.)
With this has come some lessons in friendship for our boys. Tim and I talked about it and decided that as long as the situation remained under our eyes we would let the kids play. It seemed pretty clear to us that he was more or less using the boys for their toys, but the kids were excited to have someone new to play with and we wanted to give things a chance. We set rules with our boys about going to other people's apartments (absolutely not unless we have met their parents) and when and where they could play (they have to be together and we have to be able to see them from our windows). They took their trains outside yesterday and again today.
During the course of play, however, Aidan has been having a tough time with this boy who does not play by the rules that Aidan has always been taught. Today, the boy told Aidan he wouldn't be his friend, only Caleb's because Aidan disagreed on the way to build the train tracks (I'm simplifying, but this was the overall gist of the disagreement). Since we got here, all Aidan has been worried about is having a friend. He's not asking for much, just one friend and having this little boy (who from our perspective was an unlikely candidate for a good friend anyways) say he didn't want to be friends anymore was heartbreaking for Aidan.
We had a long conversation at dinner about what makes a good friend and Aidan came up with a list:
- like each other
- like the same things
- help each other
- not being mean
We also talked about not needing to spend time with people who didn't treat you fairly. He was really processing the list and everything else as the evening went on and even started comparing book and TV characters to his list of friend traits.
Our wanderer goes back to school next week and Aidan is getting more involved in other activities, so I'm thinking the problem will naturally resolve itself over time. Nonetheless it has been a good lesson in what makes a friend and more specifically, what does not! The boys may or may not play together again, but Aidan has learned an important lesson in friendship either way.