Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Little Britches

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday we had a field trip with Boo's school. We went to a farm. When we arrived, the first question from Boo was to ask where was Little Britches. (This is the nickname I gave to Boo's friend when they were still quite small.) I walked behind these two little men, who trotted along hand in hand chatting with each other. I snapped a couple quick pictures and thought about how very blessed we are. All day I watched the interactions among the kids. And again I marveled at the fact that there seems to be something amazing between these two small boys.

It all started when they were still just babies. Boo's grandma and LB's great grandma lived next door to one another. They both babysat the boys. Being proud grandmas and friends, they decided they should get the babies together for a playdate. The first one took place when Boo was just 7 months old and LB was 11 months. The meetings continued and eventually the grandmas introduced the mommies to each other. Even from the beginning LB was a dream of a friend. Looking back I can see so many things that I didn't even notice at the time. Things that were "different" about Boo, and things that were special about this friendship. I remember watching a video of the boys playing with blocks when they were around 18 months old. LB carefully built a tower and Boo delighted in knocking it down. But instead of getting irritated or upset, LB calmly sorted through all the blocks in the set and handed Boo all of the cylinder shaped ones, which Boo was strangely fascinated with. On the night of the open house before they started preschool, Boo was displaying a lot of anxiety. Seeing LB's familiar face helped ground him. Partway into the evening, Boo suddenly became upset and demanded to leave. He said he needed to potty. (we were still working hard at potty training, and I was uncertain if he would actually be able to attend the school since potty training was a requirement.) Before I even had a chance to attempt to deal with the situation, LB stepped in and took Boo by the hand, saying come on, I'll show you where the bathroom is. I stood there stunned as Boo followed him into the public bathroom without reservation (he still had an abject terror of public bathrooms at that time) and they went in and took care of business and came back out. I thought I'd stepped into the twilight zone.

When the boys were around 2 I lost my job and LB's mom eventually asked me if I could babysit him a couple afternoons a week. It was like she asked me if I would mind winning the lottery. I adored LB and loved having him around. The boys continued to grow closer. Eventually, we were able to trade playdates at both houses. Boo especially loved this because of LB's amazing Thomas train set! And no, it wasn't all puppies and butterflies. The boys squabbled. Boo had meltdowns when LB put the "wrong" freight cars on the trains. And that was how I learned that LB's mom had a remarkable skill of her own. There is something about her personality, her demeanor, the way she speaks, that has such a calming effect on Boo that I have dubbed her The Boo Whisperer. He loves her dearly. Often after school when we are picking up our kids, Boo runs to excitedly to her instead of me.

The boys are now five (well, Boo will be five soon) and the bond between the two is remarkable. LB just seems to inherently "get it" in a way that even trained and educated adults often do not. He seems to intuitively know what Boo needs and steps in automatically to provide it. And it happens so seamlessly, so effortlessly, that I really think that it goes unnoticed by most people. When Boo feels anxious about the unknown, LB takes it upon himself to talk him through it and reassure him. LB provides a sort of touchstone for Boo. A feeling of familiarity and groundedness. When Boo is sad, LB seeks ways to help him feel better. When Boo isn't listening, LB leans in and gets his attention and brings his focus back where it needs to be. Little Britches always seeks to include Boo, is always quick to share with him and to make sure that he is a part of the group. He encourages Boo to try new things. He is quick to forgive when one of Boo's fits or unusual sensitivities spoils the fun. Those of you who follow this blog may remember the story of Family Night when Boo became overly upset by his inability to find any Easter eggs (looking for things generally not being one of his strong suits) and LB stepped in immediately and cheerfully offered to help, pointing out eggs to Boo instead of taking them for himself.

This special and unique friendship warms my heart and gives me hope. It is children like Little Britches who will make the world wonderful, accepting, and inclusive for children like Boo. In fact, when we made the decision to enroll Boo in a private parochial school 20 miles south of us, my biggest reservation about it was the fear of breaking up this friendship, of the boys loosing touch and growing apart. And that is still a risk. But something tells me that the kind of empathy that Little Britches possesses at the tender age of five can't just be a fluke. I'm certain he will continue to grow in love and respect for others, and that when the boys reunite in high school when Boo comes back to the public school system, even if they aren't close, Boo will still find an ally there to help him navigate the waters.

People like LB and The Boo Whisperer give me confidence in the future. They inspire me, and help me believe that some day far from now, when Boo is grown and I am no longer able to walk side by side with him through the wold, he will be successful. He will be social. He will be accepted, valued, and appreciated. These friends are blessings straight from God in my life and my son's. And what they mean to me is so deep and so profound that I could never put it into words, and I could never tell them face to face. The emotion is just too intense and personal. So this post is my thank you. It is my God Bless You. My I love and value you more than you will ever understand. And my praise to God for knowing we would need you, and placing you so unassumingly in our path.

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