Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Boy Next Door

Last summer, we noticed.

Next door playthings began appearing in the backyard. Our neighbors have a middle-school aged son, so we weren't sure what was up. We know our neighbors on that side but don't talk that often -- usually just wave hello and jaunt over there on Easter for a big egg hunt they do with most of their relatives.

We saw a new play house. Then some other outdoor doors appropriate for a toddler or preschooler. Finally one day we spotted a little blonde boy out there playing. I figured maybe a relative or close friend had come to stay with them for awhile. Then one afternoon when we were both outside, our neighbors introduced us to A. -- their new son, who they'd adopted from Russia.

A. is almost a year younger than Ethan, has bright blonde hair, the kind that's almost white, and a huge grin. At first he spoke mostly Russian, but you could tell he longed to make friends with almost anyone.

"Hi!" he'd call out to us sometimes, as we walked to get into our car.

I started to think of the possibilities. How about that? A possible playmate for Ethan. To say we don't exactly live in a quiet cul-de-sac neighborhood with scores of families with young kids would be an understatement. We live on a busy street full of older homes and older people. A few families with young kids have moved nearby in recent years, and the kids have been blessed to get to play with the neighbors' great-grandkids, who live down the street, but overall, this is not a neighborhood chock full of kids.

So here was this ready-made playmate for Ethan suddenly appearing next door -- only Ethan didn't want anything to do with him.

If A. was out in the backyard, Ethan didn't notice or didn't care.

If A. called hello, I'd prompt Ethan to call hello back.

When A. started attending the same playgroup down the street with his grandmother that we attend on Monday mornings, I thought maybe we could get to know him better. A. would dutifully say hello to Ethan, who would maybe say hi and then trot off to play with other things.

Even worse, a few times A. annoyed Ethan by sitting in the spot he wanted on the rug, or getting his snack served first at the table, and then to my mortification Ethan would announce, "No! I don't want to sit next to him! I don't like him!"


We didn't see A. for most of the summer (I think the family goes away to Maine). The first day the playgroup started up again in September, Ethan asked if A. would be there.

Well, he's showing interest, this is new, I thought. Yet when we'd actually get to the playgroup, Ethan wanted nothing to do with him.

This went on for about six weeks. Ethan would talk about A., look to see if A. was walking to playgroup at the same time...and then promptly ignore him once we got there.

Last week I was out in the backyard catching up with my other neighbor, who'd been in Ireland for over a month and had returned not long ago. Anna was on the swing set. I turned around in mid-conversation to look for Ethan...and found him in the yard next door.

Ethan, A., and A.'s grandmother were playing tee ball. Ethan and A. were tossing the ball back and forth, running after the ball, chasing each other, laughing.

When I came over 15 minutes later they were still playing. Ethan didn't want to leave.

The next day when the kids went out to play, Ethan saw A. next door and promptly headed over there. We now have a problem we have rarely, if ever had -- how to stop our child from being too social. When I told him it was dinner time, he wailed, "But I like playing with him!"

Fourteen months later, Ethan discovered the little boy next door.

Progress around here, as it relates to the social side of things, moves at a tortoise pace. That makes it no less sweeter. Perhaps that makes it even more sweet.

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