“You’re an amoeba; you can fit in anywhere.” My husband told me. As it turns out, our 5-year-old is an amoeba too.
“She does well socially in the classroom” my eldest’s kindergarten teacher said during our parent-teacher conference, “she finds friends easily in here. It takes her a little while on the playground to find which group she’d like to join. I think the playground environment is a lot for her with the big equipment and all of the children running. She has many choices at her disposal.” I nodded deeply in distinct personal recognition of this tendency. “Sometimes she chooses to play alone,” the teacher explained, “but, more often than not, she joins different groups after getting acclamated. As long as she’s not always playing alone, it’s not of concern. She gets along well with others.” I was not worried. I understood.
As a person who is anti-clique and pro-inclusion, I rarely allow myself to settle comfortably into the boundaries of a clique. Our daughter, it seems, is the same way. I knew I needed to talk with her so that she knew this nomadic social tendency was ok. That, though stressful at times, it can be a wonderful trait.
On our way to the playground that afternoon, I brought up the parent-teacher conference. I turned off the car radio and glanced in the rear view mirror at her as I talked. “Your teacher said you behave beautifully in class,” I said, “Daddy and I are proud of you. Good job!” She smiled. “I heard you have an easy time finding friends when you’re in the classroom. That’s nice!” She listed some of her favorite classroom friends. “I heard that sometimes on the playground it can take you a bit to choose which group you’d like to join. Do you know why you hesitate to join a group?” I asked. “Sometimes I don’t know what I want to play, so I don’t know who to play with.” She explained.
“I know it can be hard sometimes not knowing right away what group to join,” I said, “it can make you feel nervous and lonely. But it’s also really good to be like that too. Do you know why?” She shook her head. “Say you’re on the playground and want to play ‘family.’ If you were only friends with one group of people and they were playing ‘My Little Pony’, you’d be stuck either playing by yourself or playing what the group was playing. But, if you’re friends with people from different groups you may find one group is playing ‘tag’, another is playing on the monkey bars, and one may be playing ‘family.’ You’d get to choose which group to join because you weren’t stuck with just one group. Then, the next day, you may feel like playing ‘My Little Pony’, so you’d know exactly which group to find that day. Does that make sense?” She said it did and rehashed the lesson in her own words, telling me which group she enjoyed joining for which games.
“It’s ok to play alone sometimes too,” I said. “Mommy liked to play alone a lot as a kid. It’s good to be able to entertain yourself. As long as you’re not always playing alone.” She agreed. “And we never exclude. Do you understand?” She got it.
My little amoeba. Like mother, like daughter.