“How can someone be my friend if I don’t like them?”

At breakfast one Monday morning, The Five-Year-Old, who is a big believer in easing into the work week, asked in between chomps of her toast-with-honey: “Mommyo, how can someone be my friend if I don’t like them?”

Fear not, Gentle Reader, I knew where this was coming from. At every organized function The Five-Year-Old attends (preschool, Sunday School, swimming class), someone invariably says, “Remember, we are all friends here.”

It’s a lovely idea, and one that The Five-Year-Old used to agree with completely. But lately she has started to question it, because (shhh!) she has figured out that she doesn’t actually like everyone she meets.

Which is why I found myself delving into the intricacies of preschool diplomacy over an insufficiently caffeinated cup of tea.

Mommyo: “Do you know what your teachers mean by that?”

The Five-Year-Old shrugged and bit into her toast.

Mommyo: “They mean that they want you to treat everyone in your class with kindness and respect. It’s not that they think you will have as close a friendship with everyone as you have with [The Five-Year-Old’s Best Friend].”

Well, that explanation flew right over The Five-Year-Old’s head, so I asked if I could borrow some of her stuffed animals.

The Five-Year-Old nodded enthusiastically, putting her hair in serious jeopardy of acquiring some honey-streaked highlights.

I selected five animals for my cast: Jagwater the jaguar, Hello Kitty, Green Tea the bunny, Angry Bird, and Verizon the penguin. I also grabbed a couple pieces of The Five-Year-Old’s infinite inventory of art.


Green Tea is at the preschool art table working on a stained glass shamrock, when Jagwater walks up to her.

Jagwater: “Hey Tea, whatcha making?”

Green Tea: “A shamrock. See?”

Jagwater: “That’s ugly! I can do better than that!”

Jagwater steals the shamrock and pushes it away.

The Five-Year-Old stopped the role play immediately. “That’s mean, Mommyo!”

Mommyo: “Was Jagwater treating Green Tea like a friend?”

The Five-Year-Old: “No.”

Mommyo: “So what should he have done?”

The Five-Year-Old: “He shouldn’t have taken it away.”

Mommyo: “Anything else?”

The Five-Year-Old shrugs.

Mommyo: “Let’s try it again.”


Green Tea is at the preschool art table working on a stained glass shamrock, when Jagwater walks up to her.

Jagwater: “Hey Tea, whatcha making?”

Green Tea: “A shamrock? See?”

Jagwater: “Huh. Can I make some art too?”

Green Tea, delighted: “Sure!”

Jagwater gets his own piece of paper and begins to draw next to her.

The Five-Year-Old: “That’s much nicer.” Pause, then “Mommyo?”

Mommyo: “Yes, The Five-Year-Old?”

The Five-Year-Old: “It’s time for show and tell. Everyone! Get your show-and-tell things from that pile and come to circle!”

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Miscellaneous Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “How can someone be my friend if I don’t like them?”

  1. Barbara says:

    I am so glad that you are my Granddaughter’s Mom. That was an awesome lesson.


  2. Pingback: Insightful things The Five-Year-Old says at 8:59 a.m. | CATERPICKLES

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