He is 12 now, and that means I've been on many field trips with him. Yesterday's stood in sharp contrast to one at the beginning of 4th grade, about three years ago. That one, to the Mission San Francisco Solano (or Sonoma Mission), saw a 9-year-old boy whose reticence and shyness was probably the first thing anyone would notice about him. This one, to the Rosicrucian Museum (or Egyptian Museum) and the San Jose Tech Museum, saw a much different soon-to-be teenaged boy.
That earlier field trip, Eldest was in a classroom with none of his old buds. Worse, for him, was the fact that the 10 new kids who had come to the school in 4th grade were pretty much all plopped down into his classroom. To a kid who had never had a backpack-full of friends, it was a very difficult time.
There was one new boy, let's call him Harry, who seemed a lot like Eldest. He was polite. He was on the gentler side. He was quiet. In short, he seemed like the ideal boy for Eldest to woo as a new friend.
Eldest spent most of the time on that mission field trip jockeying to be paired with Harry. And it was so obvious that it was painful to see. Or maybe it was just painful for his mother to see. Sometimes, he was successful with his jockeying. Other times, not so much because there was another boy making a friendship grab for the nice new kid as well.
Fast forward to the end of 6th grade. Eldest is now 12. He and Harry have become best friends. For the most part, the original reactions to Harry as a friend for Eldest played out. He has had his moments of false bravado and the like, just like any adolescent boy will, but nothing that you wouldn't expect.
Eldest has had his first true crush this year. He has talked about this girl for a couple of months. She is in all his classes. I know (of) her through my tutoring in study hall on Tuesdays. My feelings about her are akin to those feelings I had about Harry initially. She is sweet. She is quiet. She is polite. [Oh, and, yeah, tho' Harry is a cute kid, that never really entered into my sizing him up as a 9-year-old. This girl? Very, very cute.]
Eldest is still shy and quiet, but no longer in the overwhelmingly restricting way. His self-confidence is at a higher level, and he feels good about how he looks and who he is and what he can do. Not that he's made any move toward the girl, whom we'll call Della, beyond talking to her in class and getting her phone number to text.
Kids whose parents drive are each allowed to pick one friend to travel in their car on the field trip. The teacher back fills the car with other students. Eldest has several friends in his class, including Harry and a couple of other friends he hangs with regularly.
He picked Della.
I can't tell you how much my heart soared when he told me that. And I assure you that I was on my very best behavior yesterday, particularly as I surreptitiously watched the two of them interact in the car and throughout the day. What a difference a few years makes.