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.