Today, we celebrated Bunny’s birthday. He was turning 12, and we bought cake (carrot, of course), had candles and balloons, and sang Happy Birthday to a brown stuffed rabbit in the middle of an Eucalyptus forest on a hillside in Chile. Two weeks ago it was Koala’s birthday, and we celebrated similarly.
My son has always had an extraordinarily creative imagination, but he’s never had imaginary friends. He’s never had to….until now.
I realised with the kind of guilt that punches you in the gut that these “birthday parties” are the only ones he’ll be invited to this year. While his friends are blowing out their candles at trampoline parks and kiddie dance parties, he’s travelling the world with his parents.
I know, poor kid, right?
Well yes, poor kid. One of the hardest things for him this year has been a lack of friends.
We’ve made attempts at meeting up with other travelling families, but very few meet ups have worked out. He bravely introduces himself to anyone under the age of 13 wherever we are – in a park, the beach, a restaurant, or even a bus station.
No matter that they don’t understand each other – either they engage and start playing, or look at him like he’s from another planet and skulk away. He’s had some wonderful days playing with friends he’s met, but he’s often had to leave them within 72 hours of meeting them — usually less.
There have been times along the way when we’ve questioned what we’re doing is really good for him. In the long run, yes, we believe he is learning important life lessons, and gaining confidence in himself and in the world. Plus, he’s getting to do some pretty cool stuff.
But he’s lonely. And there’s not an easy fix for that.
So today, we sang Happy Birthday to his treasured friend. Tonight I’ll read him an extra long story, sing another verse of his bedtime songs, and cuddle him a little tighter.
Because our brave little boy just simply needs a friend.