The sweetest sound of my day is Lee laughing with her buddies.
by Jennifer Gay Summers
I stood in the cool afternoon breeze, listening for the sound of the girls’ voices, the slap of their shoes running down the back path from the school. But it was the laughter I heard first, the sweetest sound of my day. All three thundered down the small slope that led to the street and down to my car. They passed under the tennis shoes someone had tossed up on the telephone wire with “Forever Friends” scrawled on the rubber sole. Lee has friends, I thought, close friends to be with all day. For many girls, that would be a given, but for Lee, who struggles with the social consequences of ADHD, it was a precious gift.
The social order that usually pairs off girls in twos spelled trouble for my daughter. In preschool, when she had trouble paying attention to any one friend, two princesses figured they were better off alone and locked her out of their castle. I hugged Lee in my arms as tears slipped down her cheeks. “Mommy,” she cried, “why can’t we all play together?”
By elementary school, she’d given up on having one best friend. Her hyperactivity made it impossible to sit still and listen. Girl talk was boring, and waiting in line to play a game on the blacktop was worse. Lee lived for lunch when she could escape to the grassy field by the sandbox. There, she fit in. She ran wild chasing lizards and dug holes to find roly polys. No need for a best friend.
When Lee started middle school, I worried. Without a grassy field at lunch, how could she fit into the social pecking order? What I didn’t take into consideration was the enormous size of the sixth-grade class. After a few months, Lee found her tribe, and they have stayed together. They are different kids who share interests. One is an artist, someone to draw with and study anime. The other loves to hunt reptiles, and another is a computer whiz. I cross my fingers they will be those “Forever Friends” when it comes time for high school.
When the girls got into my car after school that day, I could feel Lee’s energy bouncing off the small SUV’s interior. “I’m hyper, hyper, hyper!” she called out.
“Move over, Lee, and sit still!” Kay commanded.
“Here, look at the picture I drew today,” Annie said, pulling out her drawing notebook. In the space of minutes, her friends were calming her down and getting her to focus, better than I ever could.
That night, I asked her if there was one friend she liked the best. “They’re all my best friends, mom. Duh! I love all my friends equally.”
If only all the little princesses in the castles could do the same.