He is 7 years old and the best friend of James. Every morning, James waits out the front of his class for Zxy to appear and, when he does, Zxy greats him with the biggest hug and a genuine “happy to see you” smile.
James has always had trouble making friends. He is becoming less active as his disease progresses and so, when all the boys go off to play rugby, James is usually unable to join them. He used to, but it’s physically harder for him this year. Last year, he had 5 friends in his class. They were a force to be reckoned with, a strong and tight little unit. I had hoped that they would keep him with that group of boys, that he would go up through the years with that same group of boys. For me, it was important to keep him with his friends right through school. These boys will know and like James before his disease takes hold, during the transition from ambulant to non-ambulant, and afterwards when he is in a wheelchair or (eventually) if/when he is bed-bound and attached to breathing equipment. At least, that is my hope. And yet, when school started back this year, he was put in a class with only one of his special friends. James already has such a hard time making friends, simply because he is different and can’t keep up with the boys. I now know I should have said something at the end of last year, expressed my concerns about his ability to make new friends, and requested for him to be put in with a couple of the boys he got along with.
I guess my fear is that he will end up lonely at school because kids will judge him based on how he looks. Kids can be so cruel. Already, we have seen and heard kids tease and bully him. It tears my heart to shreds every time there is another incident. I just want him to be happy, I want him to grow up with good friends, friends that will look out for him, friends that will stick by him, friends that will accept him for the funny and intelligent boy that he is, and look past the fact that he can’t run around with them on the football pitch (as much as he would love to).
And whilst I don’t want to put pressure on boys like Zxy (his name sounds like “eye” with a Z in front), I do hope that he will continue to be one of those boys, one of those special friends. Because I see James’ face light up with he sees Zxy and I know that it means the world to him to have a special friend.