Connected

June 16,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I arranged a play date (is it still a play date when your kids are almost middle-schoolers?) situation for L. yesterday--involving a few friends and their kids, and our swimming pool. I didn't tell L. about this until Monday, on our way back from the pool, and when I did tell him, I used my peppy, guess-what-we're-going-to-get-to-do voice.

L. stopped in his tracks, and let out a moan. "Why did you do THAT?"

"It's a chance to meet some new kids your age," I told him, the peppy edge in my voice fading a little.

"Well, don't do it again," he grumbled. "You know I hate people."

"People are a part of life," I pointed out. "Everyone needs people."

"I don't," he said. "Not me."

And we trudged on home, in silence. I wondered: is a play date is still a play date when one person is reluctant to participate or, worse yet, hates the idea of it. Where's the "play" in all of it? The fun? I refuse to give up, though, on the connection cause. I still believe that we all do need each other--people, that is. I stubbornly hold onto that belief, because I can't imagine a world in which we don't. Sometimes a voice inside me says, let him alone, don't force people onto him but another voice crowds that one out and tells me to push on. It's necessary. Important. The alternative just isn't something I can accept right now, not yet.

We had our play date. I enjoyed talking with my friends. T. had fun with the kids (despite the age difference) and L. spent his time fully dressed, sitting in a rocking chair, head bent over his iPod. On our way back to the house I asked L. what he'd thought about the afternoon.

"I got a WiFi signal at the pool," he said. 

"Really?"

"And you said I wouldn't."

"I can't ever get one."

"Connectivity," L. said. "It's an amazing thing."