“Will someone come play with me?”

Loneliness and character development

Practically Social

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Photo by Zachari George, author

His forlorn request could be heard across the elementary playground from the uncomfortable bench where I sat and watched my son. He sounded so sad.

“Will someone play with me?” he pleaded several times, unanswered.

Other kids played nearby, and I encouraged him,

“You have to go over to the other kids and ask. They probably won’t hear you,” I declared.

We’d attended his school open house with my ex-wife. After we met his new teacher and he saw he’d have some returning friends from the previous year, he wanted to play on the playground. His mother said her goodbyes to us. He would go home with me later after the traffic cleared, for our four-day arrangement split 50/50 among co-parents.

My son is an only child without regular playmates, so I oblige him whenever possible. I also make it a point to get him out to parks and playgrounds and provide opportunities to be around other kids his age. His friends in my neighborhood have all moved away, and he clings to anyone near him because he loves to socialize and play.

Near his school, he has no friends in his mother’s neighborhood. He goes to a public school, and the area isn’t sought after, except maybe by young urban hipsters, who won’t be sending their kids to my son’s school. It’s generally low-income, and though we’re not opposed to him finding friends, it can be difficult within the neighborhood, safety, and shared interests.

It’s surprising to people that despite the socioeconomic status of most of the area, his school is outstanding, and he does very well there. When he returns this year, we’re looking forward to no masks, more socialization among parents, and plenty of play dates with his existing schoolmates or new ones.

Back at the playground, I saw him approach other kids. They were swinging wildly on a plastic merry-go-round in a group who all knew each other. My son asked if he could jump on, and they slowed down and welcomed him.

If only he could have this experience all the time.

Usually, I join him on playgrounds and chase him and other kids around, groups of them screaming gleefully - ecstatic…

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Practically Social

Licensed clinical therapist and social worker. Host of the mildly edited Practically Social channel. https://bit.ly/3cjg5j4 Catalyst, deep diver, Dad.