For tonight's party, my role was pretty minimal. I looked over the invitations my son made and talked to him about how many people to invite and the fact that a lot of people you invite generally don't show up. I bought pizza and soda. I put out chips and salsa. And that's about it. That and worry about how everything would turn out since I don't know many of my sons' friends and it's always hard to guess who might turn up. But the perfect number of really nice kids showed up. And I'm loving just being a fly on the wall and hearing what they talk about and seeing my son in action with his peers.
Gone are the days when I got to know parents at school pick-up time and worked with them to set up playdates, then had the chance to observe how my children played with others. Gone are the days when I was in the kids' classrooms all the time, seeing them in action with their classmates, realizing what combinations seemed positive, and nurturing particular friendships.
These days, I'm trying to figure out how to get to know my older kids' friends when they only really see their friends in school (they go to a charter school that has kids from all over the place) and their teachers aren't asking for classroom volunteers anymore. I'm trying to help them develop their own social lives while still getting a sense for who they're choosing as friends. I'd like to offer some helpful nudges towards kids that they might really enjoy being friends with - but it's hard when I don't have much of a chance to get to know their classmates, and even less of a chance to get to know much about their classmates' families. Since the older boys of have been on sports teams this year and I've been to lots of their games and meets, I've had a chance to meet a few more of their friends and their friends' parents. But still, my kids are having so many experiences each day that I'm not around to observe - and kids this age aren't really into volunteering information about friends (in fact, I've often got to ask scores of questions to even get a tiny sense of what is really going on!). I'm finding that nurturing your child's social development at this age is tricky - it's like working in the dark.
Tonight's party is giving me a vital, and thankfully heart-warming glimpse into my son's social life. I'm just so happy to see that my son is making some really good choices when it comes to friends and to see that he seems to be doing great in social situations.
Perhaps parties at our house are part of the answer I've been looking for. I think I'll suggest we make these parties a pretty regular thing. And I think my son will be totally good with that.