School Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school activities supervisor




       Ronald and Brian have been in the same classroom for over a year. A few months ago they started playing together and soon were the best of friends. Since then, any morning of the week, you can see the two of them flying paper airplanes together or intently pushing trucks from one end of our play yard to the other.
      A couple days ago, though, Ronald, who has a strong sense of independence, befriended a little girl named Marie. Marie is a year younger and is just past babyhood, but she radiates a charm that has strongly attracted more than one older child.
      I came out the door from our classroom that morning just in time to see Brian pounding on the chest of Ronald, who had his arms affectionately around Marie. Brian was shouting, "You're my friend!" then turning to Marie, repeating, "Ronald's my friend!"  and trying to pry her out of Ronald's arms.    
     Many preschoolers have a hard time even conceiving that a best friend can be friends with someone else, too. The concept "friends" seems to almost inherently describe to them a twosome. I've witnessed quite a few of such painful scenes, in which a longtime best friend has to make room for a new person, or feels totally abandoned while the partner pursues a new relationship.
      The directness by which small children express themselves rarely includes any kind words to cushion the blow for the child feeling left out. The ability to naturally put oneself in another's shoes and act with compassion comes at a later stage of development (a stage that many grown-ups often don't seem to have reached, either).
      Observing Brian' utter shock and anger that Ronald could also be friends with Marie, I pulled him away and said, "We don't hit, Brian." "But he's my friend!" Brian repeated.
      "Ronald is your friend," I said. "He can be your friend and be Marie's friend too! In fact, you can all be friends!"
      Brian seemed to take that in as a revelation. I saw him, just a little while later, approaching Ronald and Marie with the very words, "Let's all be friends!" Ronald and Marie immediately each dropped one of their hands and included Brian in a little circle. The three of them happily danced 'round and 'round. Gratefully observing this happy scene, I wished that bringing people together was always so easy.

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