Next to the really big worries we have (like will Kai ever be able to get a job and live independently), one of our persistent concerns is whether Kai will be able to have a good friend as he gets older.
He has known a few kids over the years that he liked and enjoyed playing with, but his first year of middle school was a rough time. He didn't bond with any of his classmates and often said that no one liked him. While we don't always take what he says as the literal truth, in this case I suspect that what he said was largely true. Between easily getting dysregulated, inappropriately expressing his frustrations, and not taking the perspective of others, it wouldn't be surprising if it wasn't easy for the other kids to warm up to Kai.
So it was welcome news this fall when he found out that a former classmate from elementary school three years ago was going to join Kai's class. E and Kai had a great relationship when Kai was in 4th grade. They hung out together at lunch and during breaks, and we even had E over to our house for a few successful playdates. And now in middle school, it seems like they were able to renew their friendship.
Last week, though, they hit a bump in the road. Kai found out that E will be transitioning to his home school. At Kai's therapeautic school, many kids come and go, staying long enough to work on their behavioral or social issues, then transitioning to their home school when ready. For six years now, Kai seems to be the only kid who hasn't been able to transition. When Kai found out that E was transitioning, I think he was crushed. But when Kai feels this way, he doesn't allow himself to feel sad. He reacts angrily.
He told E that he wasn't his friend anymore, and E responded in kind. Kai came home from school upset that E told him that he wouldn't be Kai's friend, but we got the full story from staff later.
The school staff helped to mend the relationship just in time for the boys to keep a planned playdate for Halloween. They would go trick-or-treating together in our neighborhood.
My wife picked them up at school. E did not have a Halloween costume so my wife let him wear the old Mustard costume that Kai wore about three years ago while she dressed as Ketchup. Kai was in his zombie costume.
My wife went with them at the very beginning, snapping the following photo at the famous house down our block that does Halloween up big time.
The residents here always put up elaborate decorations, many that move and make scary sounds, and they give out quarter gallon size ziplock bags full of candy including full-size bars. Plus they serve hot chocolate for the kids, wine for grownups, and doggie treats for the furry members of the family.
After the stop at this house, my wife returned home with the dog she was watching. The two boys went around on their own. 12 year olds don't usually go trick-or-treating with their parents, but this was the first time we've let Kai go without our presence and I was a bit nervous about how he would do.
But apparently all went well.
By the time I got home from work, the boys were exhausted from walking around for most of the past three hours. They had collected a huge bag of candy each. I'm sure the bags had gotten heavy by the time they were done. Kai had gotten some good exercise in, ha!
We had dinner together and then Kai and I drove E home. E was very nice. He spoke nicely with us, answering questions and telling us about how things went. He gave us more information than we usually get from Kai. He also politely thanked us.
And so Halloween was a nice success this year.
Childhood friendships oftentimes are not long lasting. And with E getting set to leave Kai's school in the coming months, this one likely won't last all that much longer. But these friendships can serve as a learning experience, and help teach a child the social interactions that will be necessary to maintain longer-term friendships when they get older.
For us, though, it serves another purpose. Maybe, just maybe, if the right person comes along, Kai can find a good friend.