Dear kid who plays at my house: Please stop ignoring me
Does one of your kids have that one friend that comes over to play who refuses to talk to you? You know, the one who is completely social to every non-parent figure but completely ignores you? When you ask him if he’d like something to drink, he stares at you as if you spoke another language or had antennas growing out the side of your head? I sure do, and I am on a mission to figure him out.
It’s not that this kid is shy. I see him talk to plenty of other kids and some adults. And it's not like he's just getting to know me. Hell, we’ve lived in the same neighborhood for the past five years. He’s been over to play with my son several dozen times. After the first couple of playdates, I figured he was comfortable being around me. Nope. So, is this kid just rude?
This is how my conversations go with this child. Let’s call him “Johnny” for the sake of privacy.
Me: “Hi Johnny! What have you been up to lately?”
Me: “Well, that’s good to not hear. So, how’s your mom?”
Me: “Alrighty then, I’ll assume that no news is good news. Would you like a juice box?” Johnny leans over to my son and whispers into his ear.
My son: “Yes, Johnny would like a juice box.”
This is how my typical conversations go with Johnny. I asked my son if Johnny talks to other parents. My son answered in the typical 8-year-old way, “I don’t know.” I asked him why, after all this time, Johnny doesn’t talk to me. My son answered, “Well, you do ask a lot of questions.” Fine. No more questions for Johnny.
For one play date, I resorted to making up sign language. Johnny walked in and I gave him a wave and pointed to the food on the counter. I then pointed to the back door to indicate my son was in the backyard, and gave him a thumbs up. Later that day my son informed me that Johnny thought I was weird. Seriously?
For the next play date, I decided to leave him notes. I saw him read them, but he did not acknowledge that he did. He went off to play as normal. My son did not tell me that Johnny said I was weird again. For the next few play dates I ignored him completely. He didn’t seem bothered by it.
A few days later I ran into his mom at the grocery store. I asked if Johnny was always quiet when he’s at home because he never talks to me when he’s at my house. She said no, he’s a chatterbox, and he told her that I never talk to him. Huh? Is that how it’s going to be? This kid is messing with me. I can play the game too, kiddo.
The next time I saw Johnny, I gave him a cool staredown. I knew he knew what was up. I simply said to him, “Hey.” After about 15 seconds of silence, he nodded. Ha! Breakthrough! My heart almost burst with happiness. Of course I didn’t let on at all how happy that made me. I continued to ignore him for the next hour or so until he was ready to leave, when I simply said, “Later.” Johnny turned to me, smiled and said, “Bye!” I was floored. I didn’t expect words to come out of his mouth. Once again, Johnny got me.
We are still at it, this game of not-going-to-talk-but-won’t-be-ignored. I really don’t know who’s winning anymore; I don't even think Johnny sees it as a game. He's an 8-year-old kid, and I doubt he's masterminded a devious plan to drive me crazy. I'm sure he has reasons for ignoring me, and I'm just reading into his actions way too much.
The lesson I learned is that I don't need to try that hard. It's like only wanting that one person to like you just because they don't. It's an age-old problem of not liking rejection. My ego was hurt because an 8-year-old kid didn't think I was a cool mom. I like being that mom all my kid's friends think is fun, but I've accepted that not everyone will think that. I need to learn to be OK with it.
Not long ago, I got a complete phrase out of Johnny. He said, "Your little silver dog looks kinda weird." Um, OK, kid. At least it was more than I've heard from you before. I'll take it, even if you think my dog looks weird. That’s cool, Johnny. Just an acknowledgement that you heard me every once in a while will do. Yes, keep the comments coming, Johnny boy — I need someone to keep me on my toes.
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