I’m watching my daughter play in the sandbox with five other children – a boy in a blue Matchbox car T-shirt and four girls, one of them wearing a pink taffeta tutu.
They are taking turns racing each other around the play yard. They don’t know I’m listening from my seat here in the shade.
My daughter, Angie, is trying to find a place in their game. She’s trying to assert herself and make friends with them, especially the boy. She always seems to like the boys best.
I can tell by the determined expression on her face that she is deciding how to present herself to this group of children, this small sandbox society. Will she be the follower, chasing them around the sandbox? Or will she be the leader, suggesting her own game with new rules?
My heart is in my throat; I can taste my own anxiety. I want the children to like her, especially the boy. I want Angie to feel included.
As I watch them from afar, my whole being swells with a strange mix of hope and fear – hope that they will play with her and fear that they will find her strange because she wears glasses or think her bossy because she likes to make her own rules. I’m nervous that they won’t understand her imagination or her sense of humor.
I have just discovered the one thing I cannot do for my daughter. I cannot make people like her. I cannot find her a place in the game. She will have to do that for herself, in her own way on her own time.
It might take 20 years for that to occur. Or, perhaps, it will happen right now before my eyes, right here in the sandbox.