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The Boy Nobody Wants To Play With

Esther Rabi

When you’re a child, your friends are your world. But not every child instinctively knows how to make — or keep — friends. What parents can do to help a friendless child.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It’s recess. The boys run to the slide and swings, and to the open area of the playground. The stragglers emerge, blinking in the bright sun, while teachers close the classroom doors and sit down to watch. Seven-year-old Shaya, his smile contagious, easily engages the kids around him. “Let’s play tag,” he says, and they agree. As they decide on home base and boundaries, he listens to suggestions and he agrees to play freeze tag, even though he wanted regular tag. He recites the counting rhyme that chooses “it,” then runs dangerously close to “it” and quickly skips away, helping a friend escape in the process. When he notices that “it” can’t run that fast, he lets himself get tagged. On the other side of the playground, Dovi is turning around and around, trying to decide which game to join. He sees a boy he likes playing tag so he grabs him and says, “Let’s play ball!” The boy pulls away and keeps running. Dovi begins to run too, calling, “Tag me! Tag me!” “What? You’re playing?” asks another boy. Dovi stands in front of him and shouts, “I can play if I want!” He hits the boy on the shoulder. “You’re ‘it’!” Dovi says, and dances away. “You can’t make me ‘it’!” says the other boy, and away he runs. Dovi is alone again. He starts tossing gravel at the tag players, they complain, and the rebbi puts him in time-out. He sits on the bench and thinks, No one ever wants to play with me. Soon, he’s crying. Why are things that are so easy for Shaya so hard for Dovi?

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