Driving home from the store, (It seems like we are always driving home from the store), William referenced the eternal “Can I ______, I’ll be your best friend!” (When someone wants what you have or wants you to do something and offers to be your best friend…)
Then he said, “But, they never keep their promise.” Then, added, “But, today, someone did!”
Apparently, a little girl in the 2nd grade offered to be his best friend and stuck to it, at least temporarily.
This made me very sad. I knew that each time, he was taking the bait. William is eager to please and desperately wants to be liked. He has been this way, for as long as we’ve known him, I don’t know if it’s because of his history and the five years of his existence when all he wanted was to truly be liked (if not loved) and belong somewhere. I don’t know if that’s why he’s like this, but I think it is.
Because of this, he’s easy to manipulate. If a random kid asks him for his quarters at an arcade, he’s going to give them to him. (This happens all the time.) And, if a kid offers to be his best friend, if he does what they want, he’s going to jump on it.
We worry about him as he gets older. Peer pressure was invented with kids like William in mind. All we can do is talk to him about it and hope for the best. That is the reality for any parent, but it’s not too comforting.
Since he wants to be liked, doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, and is so eager to please, we’ve always struggled with was getting William to be honest about his opinion of things. I guess he thought that if he disagreed with something, we wouldn’t want him anymore. Problem is, his efforts to be agreeable and not disappoint us, almost always backfire and do disappoint us. Not to the point of us not wanting him or giving him a real reason to think that. Just to the point of making us crazy.
My favorite, frustrating example, was the time he hid his cereal bars in various spots in the dining room because he didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t like them. I, of course, also being eager to please, (especially at the beginning) kept buying them because he seemed to be eating them so quickly, so I figured he must like them. The day I found them hidden in the board games, behind the water cooler, and other spots that I have, thankfully, forgotten, we were furious. It was wasteful, dishonest. and gross.
It took time to understand the good, but misguided intentions behind this deceit (and all the similar ones after that). That’s the challenge when you’ve got a kid with issues. You have to find the balance between understanding and trying to help him emotionally and making it clear that lying is never, ever ok and will not be tolerated. When I find that balance, I’ll let you know. But, today, I still have no idea. Sometimes, I think I do and have these inspiring (although, admittedly one-sided) conversations with him that I just know have solved the problem forever! Then Brian quickly reminds me that that simply will not be the case.
Then sometimes I just want to shake him and scream “just stop lying! I don’t care why you’re doing it, just stop!” I don’t, I just want to. 🙂 Usually, I’m somewhere in the middle and, yet, oddly, still not balanced.
So, as we drove home, this was just another example of William.
I started to try to make the point that real friends aren’t your friends because you do something for them.
“Like, Ms. Jennice is one of my best friends…” I wanted to explain that we do things for each other because we are friends, not so we will be friends. I wanted to remind him not to sacrifice himself for people who don’t really value him. But, I didn’t say any of it because it got noisy in the van and Antwan and Lizzie who were in the middle seats, had no interest in this deep conversation. So, I stopped before I really got started.
Then William said, “Have you been friends since you were kids?”
Me – “Well, we met in 7th grade. We weren’t friends at first, but became really good friends in 8th grade. We’ve been friends ever since.”
Again, I had all these extra things I wanted to say about mutual respect, learning to understand our differences, and how we had to work on our friendship. I wanted to say all kinds of profound things to give him a real sense of what friendship is. But, again., I didn’t because he wouldn’t have heard me anyway so I made a mental note to return to the topic later.
Less than a minute later…
William blurts out-“That was a great story, Mom!” With more enthusiasm than seemed necessary.
“You’re the best storyteller ever!”
I guess this was one time that William’s eager to please nature benefitted me. haha. Imagine how impressed he would have been if I had elaborated!