My Son Has No Friends And It’s Breaking My Mama Heart

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My second son, my middle child, is so very special. But, my son has no friends and it’s breaking my heart.

He’s so loving that it makes me ache, so generous that it’s hard for him to keep money in his pocket for long. He’s absolutely hilarious, has the most adorable dimples, and despite treading water in the turbulent tween waters, he’s actually a really great kid.

He’s also painfully lonely.

He’s always been different from the other kids his age.

He’s incredibly well-spoken, enjoys discussions over history or politics. He has a very sarcastic sense of humor and no patience for façade or fakes. He is a true delight to hang out with… if you’re an adult.

11-year-old boys aren’t so impressed.

I’m an extrovert and have never had trouble making friends. Just stopping to get gas can land me in a 20-minute conversation and earn me three new Facebook friends. I love being around people, which I think makes it hurt worse when I see him all alone.

He knows he’s alone.

He knows he’s different.

But knowing you’re different doesn’t make it any easier to be different.

He’s so proud of his ideas, so happy with his interests, and he genuinely wants to share them… but no one wants to listen.

He loves laughing and loves playing video games… but no one wants to join him. He attends social functions and tries to meet other kids… but no one wants to sit by him.

He’s lonely. So lonely. And while his heart is bruised from the constant rejection, mine is positively shattered.

He cries some nights because he hears his brother talking on the phone, talking on the XBOX. He cries when his sister goes to playdates and gets birthday invitations. I cry, too.

I cry because he’s hurt. I cry because they’re missing out. I cry because he has so much to give, but no one seems to want it.

We stopped having birthday parties for him a few years ago, because people stopped coming. We tried for 6 months to find a friend who would go ride go-carts with him to celebrate turning the big 10, and finally just had to make it a family day.

I had to smile through the celebration and hide my absolute devastation.

I overcompensated with the gifts to try and distract him from the lack of guests. My mama heart broke that there were no invitations, there was no giant cake, there were no giggling boys in the back seat farting and teasing each other. It was just us, like it is every night at home, smiling our hardest to make him feel the best.

We talk about it, my boy and I. The differences in our friend circles are stark, and he notices.

I give him pointers, tips, conversation starters he can try when he’s around other kids. I try to set up opportunities to hang out with other kids, try to take him to events that I know will be full of potential friends.

He always comes away alone.

The longer he goes without friends, the more insecure he becomes. The more insecure he becomes, the less brave he is when approaching new kids. And the less brave he becomes, the less time he spends trying.

He gives up quickly now, and it’s breaking my mama heart.

He approaches groups of boys with his head already down, convinced they don’t want to talk before he even opens his mouth.

He sits with the other lonely kid, the one with no one else around, but they’re both so shy or awkward that the conversation fizzles and they sit in awkward silence. I watch, hopeful each time, and fight the tears as they all part ways.

He cries about it sometimes, and I cry with him. He’s an old soul in the body of a boy who doesn’t fit. Middle schoolers aren’t known for their empathy, so there aren’t a lot of kids with the patience to befriend the weird kid. There seem to be more and more kids who would rather tease him.

He knows he’s different. He knows they want to talk about Fortnite or sports or even girls.

He researches pop culture, watches football games so he can have nuggets to offer in conversation. But his distaste for arrogance and false fronts means he has a hard time faking it, and tweens are quick to spot a poser. As aware as he is that he’s not like them, they’re equally in tune.

They know he’s not like them.

They don’t want to talk with him.

They’re at the same developmental stage as he is – physically awkward, hormonally overwhelmed, and not the greatest and taking stands on behalf of the little guy. Middle school is the time of fitting in, going with the crowd, belonging.

And while he doesn’t fit in, doesn’t share all of their interests, he still shares that desire to belong.

I share that desire for him to belong.

I cry for him, my lonely boy. I’m immensely proud of him and know just how wonderful his company is. I also know how tender his heart is, and how much it pains him to be alone. I’m mad for him, mad that kids can be so narrow-minded, mad that what’s so wonderful about him is what seems to hold him back.

He doesn’t have a tribe I can chauffeur around, a team to meet up with, a friend to have inside jokes with.

I am my son’s best friend, and my mama heart is breaking.

I am my son’s only friend, and my mama heart is breaking.

I’m honored to fill the role right now, but I know he needs more than me.

I want more for him, and he wants more than me. No mother yearns to be replaced, but I desperately want to give up the role.

I know it won’t always be this way, I know he’ll find his people. The older he gets, the more the world will open up to him, and I’ll never stop giving him chances to try.

I know he’ll eventually find at least one other quirky kid to hang with, or at least someone who isn’t his mom. I know he’ll be seen for what he is eventually, not dismissed for what he isn’t.

But that day hasn’t come yet, and in the meantime, my mama heart is breaking.

17 COMMENTS

  1. My mama heart breaks too! My 11 yr old daughter is my favorite human on the planet but she Just clams up around kids her age. They are missing out! My love to you and your son ?

  2. My daughter too…she always says she has no friends, and that they are mostly online. I know she would talk to your son in a heartbeat, and be his friend. I know how hard it is to see, and how much the hurt also devastates us as parents. Wish we could reach out and connect the two..

  3. This is essentially my story/my sons story. My heart breaks for you..and the tears, and the heartache and the longing I feel with you. Someone just started an adolescent friend group in our community for children like ours. We are trying it tonight, fingers crossed. Much love to you momma, find me on Facebook if you ever need to vent. Kristian Hulme

  4. This breaks my heart as my 11yr old boy is the exact same way, and he is alone always 🙁 I just want him to have a friend, I wish I could make other kids stop teasing him and love him as much as I do !

  5. My heart breaks for you, too. In our day, we had online communities and blogs and—for me—an online diary-site where I found a great community of like-minded people. I have life-long friendships that came from the virtual world where most of my ‘real-life’ friendships seem to ebb and tide. Perhaps, with monitoring and candid conversations about web-safety, parental controls privacy expectations (for safety’s sake) you could find a site he could be a part of.

    Also, check your local library for events. And with his interests in history, you may want to check out sca.org and find a local group to check out together. I have friends in a local group here and they are some of the most welcoming and interesting people! I have a very good friend that would probably make a great digital pen-pal for your son. He’s a substitute teacher and is comfortable (and safe) with kids, but he’s SO intelligent and different and fascinating—one of my favorite people simply because he’s authentic.

    Good luck to your son. And good luck to your Mama Heart, too!

  6. Hey there! I know this pain all too well. Have you thought about letting him join kid friendly sites, like DIY.org? Its a cool creative space that is just for kids. They have many interesting subjects that a sweet intellect like himself would most likely enjoy. And its a chance to connect with other like-minded kids. Just a suggestion. If we knew each other personally, I’d be quick to extend our family’s Xbox gaming info. Sending love and hope your way!!

  7. my Heart is sad for you both . I understand. I had 2 of my 8 children that struggled the same issues (boy and girl). They are the same. They have a gentleness and sense of humor beyond their years. As sympathetic and connected as I was with them, I realized that I couldn’t be the only one they had to talk to. It took a little bit of extra time, but they each went to therapy, which gave them another relationship, another outlet. High school was easier than middle school. Finally college and young adulthood came and their worlds opened and light and color streamed in as they found other souls in cinque with their own. I found peace and rest. Hang in their sweet mama, his time is coming .

  8. My oldest is very much like this and he’s only just turning 6! He doesn’t speak well like others his age, but he still tries and yet, no matter what, no one really accepts him or invites him—he’s still naive about it all tho… I break every time his “friends” are showing pictures of birthdays and fun, with everyone, but my boy is always alone… never invited and yet he’s such a sweet hearted kid! Gentle spirit and kind… he usually plays alone because other kids don’t want to be around him… he really loves cars and will do everything with them and other kids his age don’t really have a set favorite thing… he is content to play quietly right now, however as he grows I see him being very introverted… I was rejected by peers all my life because of how I am too… even tho I try… I break for my oldest… he’s a sweety and everyone is missing out!

  9. Omg…I sooo felt this. It breaks my head. My son is the same way &he has anxiety that I noticed is getting worse as he ages. I suffered from the same thing so it REALLY breaks my heart because it killed me as a child/teenager so I know to some degree how he feels. It’s the worst! I too try to give him pointers to start convo’s etc., he’s soooo smart it blows my mind, he’s hysterical, He’s the most generous & empathic boy. I see his friends from elementary school wave & say bye to him as we leave places but he gets so anxious that he walks by super fast & mumbles bye, which they def don’t hear or see. So I feel like he’s almost pushing old friends away & it’s his social anxiety. I don’t want to throw him in therapy & have him think hes weird or whatever for going to therapy…all though it’s a known fact in our household that myself & his father see therapists. But I also think he’d benefit from an outlet besides me & someone that he might actually listen to the ways to handle anxiety. Lord knows I could have used that when I was younger. I just want to protect him fr/potential mean kids & it rips me up inside thinking of what may/may not be happening in school.

  10. I’m right there with you, but my girl is about to turn 16 and she has all but given up on making friends. She is also an old soul with nothing in common with her peers. She has always had a hard time making friends because of her quirkiness and has been hurt badly recently by a girl she thought was her one and only true friend, but out of nowhere this one just dropped her like a hot potato. She is utterly devastated. I know we aren’t “supposed“ to be our kid’s friend, but I will be her best friend as long as she needs me to be.

  11. If this were my son I would absolutely switch schools. He is in a situation that will likely not change. In a new setting everything can change and be new. I am a teacher so I’ve witnessed this first hand.

  12. I totally understand. I have an 11yo daughter and very similar issues. I’ve talked to the school teachers/counselor and they’ve purposely placed her in work groups with kids who are nice and welcoming to kids that are odd or not popular. That did help. Also gum. All the kids want to be friends with the kid who has gum. Try that!
    You’re not alone. I’m so sorry. Lots of times I hate my daughters autism 🙁

  13. I hope my son finds a friend unlike his mother he’s been invited to parties but no one has invited him over to his house but little steps are what’s important I hope he finds someone that be there for him unlike me I’ve never had many friends the once I did have ditched me after we graduated and would care less when I was having tough time but I had be there when they where and nothing more hurts have family make fun you all over Facebook

  14. I’m hoping we can connect. My son is 11 and an old soul. Adults adore him. He has a dry sense of humor and a museum of antiques set up in his room. He loves military history and video games. He’s intelligent and loves to read. He’s an introvert by nature. They sound like twins. ?

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