It has been quite the week! There is a crisis of bounty on my kitchen counter to mark that we have had Occasions this week: two angelfood (stuffed) cupcakes, half a pie, half a chocolate cake,  and a round tin of pink cookies. Also there are two slices of ice cream cake in the freezer.

You know that the pink treats are always the best treats, don’t you? It’s true. Will test drove the theory a few months ago on some cupcakes, and found it verifiable. I’m test driving it on the cookies this morning, and I believe it may be a global truth.

So I have turned forty. The only down side to turning forty I have found is the jokers. That whole over-the-hill thing? Totally for the birds. Thankfully, there’s only been one icky card to that effect, and it was from my brother, so it’s (mostly) forgivable. He makes it his business to be mildly inappropriate whenever he can get away with it; I’ve come to expect cards from him that make me wince. And in truth, I’m not so concerned about turning over a new decade. I didn’t much freak out about thirty either.

What I am concerned about, tho’,  is twelve. Our man cub turned twelve over the weekend, and that’s kind of a big deal. He’s in middle school now – seventh grade – and I suppose this is where things get hinky.

His birthday party on Sunday was a bit of a bust. It was mostly family, and just one of his friends. The other friend he had invited was sick as a dog and couldn’t come out, and that was the friend whom he was really looking forward to seeing. So there were people, but most of them people he’s related to, and it got him a touch sad after the party.

We talked for a long time about it after. I asked him why he only invited the two kids, and he said that there just weren’t that many people he knew who he wanted to be friends with. He busted out words like, popular and thuggish, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. There’s one kid that he does want to be friends with, but whom he just doesn’t know that well. I encouraged him to invite the kid over to play (or to hang out – I don’t think they so much play at twelve).

This year is hard. The last eight years he was in the same school, with the same kids, and they all knew each other really well – they met in preschool! There are only a handful of kids in the middle school from his elementary school, and he doesn’t see them very often, he says.  One that he was pals with at the beginning of the year (the kid who made it to his party) actually left the school a few weeks in to be homeschooled, so they never get to hang out very often. But this was the first time I’d ever heard him talk about not feeling like he had friends.

He talks about kids at school a fair amount – what they talked about at lunch, about the stuff going on in the after school project he’s part of.  When soccer is going on, he seems well involved with those boys, too. He seems pretty well adjusted, but just not interested in the majority of people around him – he likes them well enough, just not well enough to want to hang out with them outside of where he met them.  So I don’t know if this is something that was just a sharp moment elicited by the small birthday party, or if this is a building pain. I was terribly lonesome in middle school* – I don’t want him to be lonesome like that.

And I don’t want to say to him, oh, you’ll make better friends in high school (or college, for that matter) – it feels hollow, and it doesn’t speak to right now. Am I supposed to tell a twelve year old that he’ll have good friends at fifteen? What an awful fortune, such hanging on and waiting. I told him to invite friends over, to exchange phone numbers with the couple of  kids he would like to be better friends with, to make plans with them. I encouraged him, and reminded him what a great guy he is. It’s all I can do. I wish there was more. He did, later that night, say that he felt better, that he felt silly about being let down after the party. I told him he’s not silly, and it’s ok to feel sad sometimes. He insisted that he wasn’t sad. We had dinner, we played with his pet rat, we read before bedtime. The next morning it was as if nothing had happened.

It’s hard, this parenting stuff. Some days it feels like we walk our path twice, once as the subject, and once again as an observer and coach. It brings up a lot of the hurts that we went through and rehashes stuff that we buried deep. I ache hard sometimes for this boy of ours. I just want everything to be ok, you know?

Onward into the new year. We shall take things as they come and see what happens. We’ll deal with life as it happens, and I’ll try not to worry so much about my history being his future. He is his own person – a wonderful, whole human being. And he will find people with whom he can share a mutual appreciation. He will.

***

*For the record, I was an A-class weirdo in middle school.** Our man cub is far more likable than I ever was as a kid.
**I may still be an A-class weirdo who just found friends who appreciate that in me. I do believe I’m more likable these days, tho’.

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