When my son was around three or four, I took him and his sister to McDonald’s for lunch. Some friends of mine were meeting us and we agreed to sit at a table in the play place to let the kids play while we talked. Lunch was quickly consumed.
My daughter, being more out going, disappeared into the maze of tunnels that wound above our heads. My son on the other hand, crawled through the plastic lion’s head to play with metal keyboard on the wall. Soon, my daughter had made friends with some of the other kids, while my son happily plunked out tunes by himself.
After a while another little boy wandered through the lion’s head and over to where my son was playing. He also began pushing buttons playing the toddler version of music. With a frown on his little face my son looked up at the new boy and very clearly stated, “You aren’t my friend.”
From the tone in his voice it was obvious he wasn’t trying to be mean. He sounded a little confused and as if he were trying to clarify something for someone. It was like the preschool version of I think you have mistaken me for someone else.
My friends all heard him too since we were sitting at the table closest to the plastic lion’s mouth. Since then there have been quite a few times when those words have echoed through my mind. My friend Jessi has said she has experience the same thing.
When faced with a cheerful stranger who insists on speaking to me as if we are best friends, or when someone speaks to me while we are standing in a silent line. Often I will be pulled from wherever I was inside my own head. During that moment of confusion while I am still trying to adjust to the regular world, my brain offers up the words “You’re not my friend.” I never say it of course, but for that small bit of time I completely empathize with that puzzled blonde haired little boy playing music to himself in the McDonald’s play place.