Bini’s got a little kindergarten bromance going on with another kid in his class, a kid I’ll call Marco. To hear Bini tell it, Marco is the best football player in his class and the best runner in the whole school. All the boys like him, and all the girls have crushes on him. (Bini has learned what a crush is — “it’s more than like but not as much as love.”)
Every day, we talk about school — how it was, what he did, who he played with at recess. Inevitably, Marco is the leading man, with several other supporting players. Marco knows how to read. Marco can do s’es better than anyone in class. Marco gets to buy lunch every day. Marco gets to stay for after-school care.
Marco, Marco, Marco.
I also hear about other kids. There’s Inesh, who pulls the erasers off all the pencils. And, Angelica, who uses potty words. I envisioned, respectively, a kid who was one step away from mutilating animals and a little girl who was Ke$ha-in-training.
Last week, I volunteered at Bini’s school for an art class. I was interested to see Marco, and Inesh and Angelica, along with the aforementioned extras. I was ready to size them up, and if they were little menaces, maybe put clay down their shirts.
They all trooped in to the Art & Science room, tiny little people in pigtails and light-up sneakers and Captain America t-shirts. They sat down and started to do the art lesson, and I circled the room, looking for kids that needed assistance. Inesh was struggling to turn his clay into an egg, so I helped him. “Thank you, Bini’s mommy,” he said, with eyes as big and brown and shiny as a puppy’s.
Angelica, of the potty words, finished her clay project early and moved on to the painting portion. When I walked over, she was mixing red and white to get pink. “Nice job with the mixing,” I said. She beamed. Later, when I circled back, she pointed to a flower she’d painted. “I made that for you,” she said.
And then, Marco. He and Bini sat next to each other, making their clay creations and mixing all the paint colors to get a dull brown. He didn’t look like a football phenom or more crushable than my adorable son. He actually seemed to be … quite taken with my boy. Or, at least, the admiration was mutual.
“Bini,” I heard him say more than once. “Watch this.”
Then, two minutes later, Bini would say, “Marco, look what I can do.”
Later, when Bini was at home, I asked him if he wanted to have Marco come over to play. To my surprise, he shrugged. “Sure, I guess.” This was puzzling. Usually, Bini’s on me to set up play dates with his buddies.
It occurred to me that maybe Bini doesn’t yet want his mommy involved in this particular friendship. Marco is the first friend he’s made entirely on his own. I’m not friends with his mother. The two kids didn’t meet at a playgroup when they were 18 months old. And as much as he cherishes his pre-kindergarten friendships, this one is special. I think I get it. Kindergarten is the beginning of my son having a life completely separate from home, and from me. And that’s … OK.