Last Thursday night after dinner, we took advantage of the decidedly summer temperatures, even though we were well into September with only one day to go until the season officially changed to fall. We headed to get icecream to soak up a bit more of the day before nighttime took over.
We got our usual's - myself and Brandon each had caramel infused vanilla sundaes while Henry had a free baby cone. Though we noted that this would likely be the last summer that the under 38" height requirement for the free cone would hold up for him. We parked ourselves at the brown picnic tables around the side of the building near another family filled with younger girls.
Henry kept a close eye on the girls the whole time we were eating. And after devouring both his icecream and mine, he looked at me and said "what are their names?" I told him I didn't know and he said "should I go ask them?" I could already see the nerves in his face, but he wanted to run around and play with them, so I said sure. He held out his hand and asked me to come with him. "I'm right here buddy, you can go ask." We were sitting just steps from where the girls were playing.
In the back of my mind I was thinking how I would want someone to go with me, too. I am an introvert through and through and the thought of willingly approaching a group of people to strike up a conversation fills me with dread. In short, I don't do it unless absolutely forced to.
But I let him go on his own anyway.
He walked to them so tentatively with his pointer finger securely in his mouth like he does when he gets nervous. He kept glancing back at me and Brandon trying to make sure he was doing the right thing. "Say 'hi, what's your name'", I encouraged to him from my seat.
He got a few steps away and I heard him say the line, but just barely above a whisper. The girls were already very involved in their game and hadn't meant to ignore him. He turned to me with sadness in his eyes. "Say it louder, buddy."
So he got right in the path of one of the older girls and said "Hi, what's your name?" She told him and asked him his. "I'm Henry," he said around the fingers in his mouth. "Do you want to play with us?" she asked. And he nodded. So excited to be a part of them, the introductions finally over. And as they started to play, his face changed, joy replacing the worry and suddenly he was darting back and forth playing tag with his new friends.
But I kept replaying the moment that he walked up to them so tentatively. I'm watching myself, I kept thinking. And tears sprang to my eyes as I watched his bravery come out, his determination to make friends with these girls if only for the length of an icecream cone.
Henry is me in so many ways. His shyness being the main indicator. But sitting there on that hard picnic bench I was so incredibly proud of him for taking the steps, for saying hello, for making new friends. It seemed so easy, and yet, I couldn't do it. Had someone asked me to go and make conversation with the moms of the girls that were sitting at the next table, I would've quickly shook my head, thrown away my vanilla scoop, and headed for the car without looking back.
But here was this tiny three year old showing me how simple it really was.
Plus, I'm sure the big blue eyes and contagious grin have a small part to play....