Ryan, Are You Coming?

Ryan and friend
Ryan, trailed by his new friend

Wherever we go, my daughter makes friends. She surveys the scene, seeks out girls her own age, walks right up and starts a conversation. These “friends” may last a day, a week, or years, but the point is they occupy her time. On the rare occasions she can’t find peers, she’s bored — and let’s us know it.

Ryan? Not so much. He’s well-versed in entertaining himself. He can invent games out of anything. He can spend hours doing the same things over and over and never complain. Friends? If they happen, great, but he doesn’t actively seek them out.

Recently we found ourselves at the pool in our vacation condo. Riley kept disappearing with friends she’d made the year before. Ryan and I were playing a game of catch, with me throwing him a ball as he jumped off the side. He was (of course) keeping score and doing play-by-play (loudly).

Both Veronica and I noticed a boy about Ryan’s age watching him play. It was pretty obvious that he wanted to be included. We wondered if Ryan noticed. And if he noticed, did he have any interest in playing with a peer?

Riley kept joining and leaving and re-joining the game. At some point, one of them talked to the boy and invited him to play. Ryan went to explain the rules of the game, and I sighed. Ryan’s “rules” can be lengthy, obscure, and confusing. We have talked with him about the need to simplify things so as to make his games more inclusive, but — shockingly — he’s rather particular about the rules of the games he plays.

I watched the boy’s face for signs of boredom of detachment, but didn’t see any. He nodded along with the rules, which were thankfully simpler than in many of Ryan’s games, and soon I was throwing the ball to all three of them. Ryan’s new “friend” was enthusiastically playing along, keeping score, and apparently not annoyed by Ryan’s play-by-play call.

We took a break, and Ryan and the boy headed off to another part of the pool. I wondered if that would be the end of their “friendship.”

The next time I saw the boy he was wandering back towards the main area of the pool — without Ryan.

He stopped and turned to look over his shoulder.

“Ryan, are you coming?”

In all the years of being around Ryan in social situations, I’m not sure I’d ever heard that before.

The next thing I knew, Ryan was back at his side and the game was back on. We went through 100 “regular-season” games, and four rounds of the “playoffs.” Riley came and went, but Ryan and his friend remained throughout, enthusiastically keeping score.

At dinner we talked about the boy, and it turned out Ryan had learned quite a bit about him — his name, age, school, where he was from, and (of course) his favorite sports and teams.

In other words, exactly the kind of things you talk about with a new friend.

Yes, that’s right. My son made a friend on vacation. No big deal, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some celebrating to do.

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