When I got in there, he was sitting up in bed, brooding.
"Why don't any of my friends ever ask me over?" he asked. "I ask them over. And I work really hard looking up their phone numbers and dialing."
It's true. Only one friend in his class has ever invited him over. He's had different friends over lots of times. I was hoping he would never do the math.
I'm sure the explanation is not as dramatic as he thinks. I told him that their moms probably worked during the day, and maybe even on weekends, and they weren't allowed to have friends over when there's a babysitter.
"But they have other people over," he said. "They ride home together."
"That's called a carpool," I said. "The moms take turns driving each others' kids."
Since we walk to school, Johnny is not familiar with this concept.
He wasn't buying it.
"They never play with me at recess," he said. "I feel like I only have one friend this year."
"One friend is a lot," I said. "And if you want to play with other kids, just join into what they're doing."
"I don't like what they're playing, though," he said. "It's kickball."
Johnny is the only kid I know who doesn't like kickball.
"Sometimes, you have to play things other people want to play. It can't always be what you want to play," I said. (You know, not everybody wants to go through your 31-step ninja training program, I didn't say.)
He still wasn't accepting these explanations. But, he wiped his eyes and laid his head on the pillow.
I tucked him in. Having explained everything quite logically, I went into my room and cried.
"Why? Why?" I asked.
Now, in fairness, he gets invited to birthday parties and to join teams, and that's really all you can ask. I'm sure a lot of kids simply don't have people over. They play with kids on their block, that kind of thing. And I'm sure once I'm working full time, the boys won't have friends over a lot, either.
Still, he really does work hard dialing the numbers. It takes him like 50 tries.
Don't even get me started on when Richie calls people. I read the number, and he takes a total guess on what that number looks like. So 555-5432 is 719-222222222. "There we go," he says, as he finishes dialing Finland.
Yet they want to place the calls by themselves.
That night, I couldn't sleep. I hadn't felt this way since I was a kid.
You know how you worry about fitting in when you're younger? If you're a girl, you want to have the same shoes and hairbow and shoelaces as the cool kids in your class. And then one day you show up in neon shoelaces and pigtails with hot pink ribbons and pink shoes and you think...Why am I the only one who looks like a clown? It turns out you're not supposed to wear all the trends at the same time. So you're just like, "I can't figure this out," and you do your own thing.
Little did you know that you would one day worry about fitting in again. Only this time it's worse. It's your kid.
The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed, got my coffee and went into the living room, where Johnny was watching a cartoon.
"Can I have a friend over today?" he asked.
"I thought you were tired of dialing the numbers and then not getting asked over to their house," I said.
"Yeah, but that's just because their moms are at work," he said, cheerfully. "They're not allowed to have friends over when babysitters are there."
I think my kids have subcontracted their worries to me. And I'm pretty good at the job. After all, I have a lot of prior experience.