Sunday, January 15, 2012

the power of friendship

In second grade, after Sister Winifred warned my mother that I was too shy and in danger of becoming a social outcast, my mom staged an intervention. She sat me down and shared with me her experiences as a painfully shy girl. Mom encouraged me to seek out another girl who was quiet and looked in need of a friend and strike up a conversation.

And that's what I did, though it scared me almost speechless. And that's how I became friends with Jane, a wonderful girl who, though quiet, was delightfully funny and kind. Later still, I befriended Michelle and Jennifer and we formed our own little quirky club, sharing books, eating snacks and having our wacky preteen adventures.

If it weren't for my group of friends, I'm not sure how I would have handled the bullying I endured everyday through seventh grade. Most days, I came home crying over the things Sharon and Vicky said to me--the way they mocked my clothes, my hair, my glasses and my lack of makeup, among many things. These experiences solidified in my mind how very ugly and unattractive I was.

But one thing they never convinced me of: that I was undeserving of friends. Because I, I had this terrifically smart, staunchly loyal, and whimsically fun group of friends. Though we weren't in the popular group, I knew we were cool, because we always had a blast.

I believe in the healing power of friendship. I believe each and every child deserves and needs a good, loyal friend who will stand by him through anything. I believe that type of friend can give us courage to stand up against bullies (like I did in seventh grade when Paul Forrest was bullying my twin brother--a post for a different day). I believe those friends can give us hope to endure just about anything.

Which is why I have been so worried about my son. You see, Danny doesn't really have any friends at school. He never comes home talking about his buddies or asking if they could come over for a play date. And his autism makes him stand out so that sometimes other kids avoid him.

This is why I started our LEGO Club. These kids deserve friendship. And they need it.

They really need it: One 6-year-old boy, recently told his parents that all he wanted for his birthday was a friend.

A, also 6, told his mom that everyone at school hates him.

And S, who is 10, says she has no friends at school.

My Danny told me that making friends is really hard.

This? This is something that breaks my heart into tiny fragments of sadness. These kids are terrific: loyal and funny and smart as whips. They are fantastic! And they deserve acceptance and friendship. They may have difficulty connecting with others because of autism or ADHD or shyness or just because they happen to be different (like I was), but that makes them no less wonderful and in need of friendship.

I believe if our kids have good friends, they may be less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol or other self-harming behaviors. I believe it may prevent suicide and help with depression. One good solid friend may give our kids hope when things look bleak. At least that's what I hope for, anyway.

Because you know what? My LEGO Club kids are making friends:

On LEGO Club nights, S begs her mom to let her stay longer and play because "these are my real friends, mom! Don't you WANT me to have friends?!?!"

Danny often gets a touch weepy on the way home, because, "Mom, I'm going to miss my LEGO members! They're my friends!"

A said that she has the "best group ever!" and her group mate, J declared that "LEGO Club is awesome."

Best of all, my son told me that everyone at LEGO Club is his friend.

And that means more to me than a hundred glowing report cards. Because I believe wholeheartedly in the power of friendship.


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Heather said...

That's so awesome! Such a great idea too...

you've got my brain working.

I think we need a lego club around here.

AutismWonderland said...

Wow Patty - absolutely beautiful!

Thank you for sharing this with us :)

You have my brain going too.

gretchen said...

Oh Patty, I just love, LOVE this! It's just so important! I totally agree about the power of friendship. THank you so much for taking this stand for your kid and for ALL kids.

And thank you for jumping into the spin so nice and early!

You're linked!

Sprite's Keeper said...

Just amazing!
I wasn't bullied in school, at least not to any standard of worry, but I didn't hang with the popular crowd. I did hang with the cool kids, just like you. In my book, they were cool for a variety of reasons, none of them trendy or in the moment. :-)

Lizbeth said...

And this right here is why I wished we lived closer!!!!

Heather said...

Once again I wish I lived closer! Eli would love being a part of this and I would love having him be there!

Aimee said...

Ohmigosh, you've brought me to tears. You'll see why when my spin goes up tomorrow. I need to brainstorm how to make this happen for my Nicky, because he's in the same boat...

Good for you for making this happen for these kids. I love it!

(EXCELLENT! My word verification for this is 'hesable'...he's able. So perfect.)

Jan said...

Ah, Patty - I wish you and your LEGO club had been around when my boys were young; both were bullied something fierce and had few, if any, friends. You are awesome.

Peg said...

I absolutely LOVE this post. I so agree that the power of friendship is indeed powerful!

I met my best friend in high school because I took up for her when she was being bullied.

You are a great woman!

Mrsbear said...

I was one of those painfully shy kids too. I still have trouble talking to people.

I think it's awesome that the Lego group gives these kids an opportunity to connect and make friends in a setting that's fun, it can be so hard finding a way in at school. I'm so happy to hear it's so successful.

Ginny Marie said...

Yay! I'm so glad the Lego club is available for kids like Danny! What a wonderful thing!