Do You Want to Play Basketball?

“You guys wanna play basketball with me?”

He stood on the very edge of our lawn in his shorts and hoodie holding a small basketball.

The other bigger kids continued to chase each other and play.  One kid lingered on the edge of their lawn near to where Eddie was standing.

“Hey! Do you guys want to play basketball with me?!?” He asked louder.

Even though the one kid was hanging near, he still managed to effectively ignore my little guy.

Eddie looked down at his Little Tikes basketball. I couldn’t see his face from my place by the kitchen window, but I could guess at the questions going through his mind. Why won’t they answer me?  Why wouldn’t they want to play with  me?


I called Cort to see.  Eddie was obeying the rules and staying in our yard.  He even kept checking his feet to make sure they were not over the line.  I could tell he was antsy to go run and play tag.

Earlier that day we had heard him yelling outside in the front yard, when we peeked out the window, he was yelling down the street, “HEY!  GUYS!  COME HERE!  I WANNA TALK TO YOU!” to the kids playing down the road.

We live on a dead end where the neighbor kids like to spend time digging holes for no other reason than to dig holes.  Eddie likes to watch them.  They also cut into the woods from the dead end and trek back to the field behind our house.  There’s a creek back there and they like to catch crayfish and frogs.  This particular afternoon, Digger Boy (the boy who digs the holes, and yes, this is the name Eddie refers to him as) and his brothers had a bucket of fish and frogs and they came into our yard to show Eddie and Cort.  Eddie thought it was just wonderful.

So for the rest of the day, when he saw neighbor kids, he wanted so badly to play with them.

They are all at least five years older than Eddie is, and have no interest in playing with a three-year-old.

But Eddie doesn’t understand this, and so he stands on the edge of the yard, doing his best to make friends without breaking the rules of leaving the yard.

“I’m going to put on shorts and go play basketball with him for a bit,” Cort tells me as he rubs my back.  I have been watching him with tears in my eyes for a couple minutes.

“Thank you,” I tell him before I call out the window to Eddie asking him if Daddy can play with him.

“Daddy?  He wants to play basketball?  Yay!  I want to play too!”

As I got Charlie’s jammies on I heard lots of giggling and chasing going on around the house before Cort and Eddie burst in all smiles and exhaustion.

Eddie is so bold and makes friends so easily.  He is so much braver than I was at that age.  I am so proud when I see him feeling comfortable talking to other kids, but I feel those old fears of rejection that I clung too tightly to as a child.

Luckily for me, Cort reads my worry and nerves and jumps in before Eddie’s feelings can be hurt.

Besides, I think Eddie prefers to hang with his Dad rather than some dumb neighbor kids any day.

2013-04-27 13.36.23

Cort and Eddie build a fence.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. So sweet. My 3-year old always wants to go to “the neighbors” too. Luckily we have wonderful neighbors with older kids who adore playing with him! It helps that there isn’t much of an established “kid gang” right where we are too. He will soon be running with his own group, and as I struggle with making the first move in making friends, it sounds like that won’t be Eddie’s problem growing up! Good for him:-)

    • I am not particularly fond of the neighbors in our part of the subdivision. They are MUCH older than Eddie and are just…not well-behaved. He has a gaggle of friends at daycare though. And once Charlie is old enough to play outside by himself, they will be great friends, I think.

  2. My heart always breaks as I see my kids face rejection. I can’t handle it. I want to step in and do something but I make myself stay back. The thing is, that it doesn’t seem to bother my daughter. She’s almost 6 and up to this point she doesn’t seem to care. I see girls at the bus stop ignore her and I get angry, but she doesn’t even notice. And then the next day the same girls are ignoring someone else. So I don’t think it’s her, I think it’s the age. Anyway, rambling. Point is, I think it bothers us a lot more than it bothers them. We won’t have this luxury for too much longer, but right now it rolls right of their backs.

    • I don’t think Eddie much noticed either since his daddy jumped in. He never gave it another thought. Usually if something is bugging him, he will bring it up to me at bedtime, but he never mentioned those kids. I think you’re right, this bothered me MUCH more than it bothered him.

  3. This tore at my heart something awful. Fortunately my own kiddo hasn’t had much of this with older kids, and she never does it to younger ones, so I hope she never makes someone feel so sad (the momma, or the child!) – even though there is a part of me that knows she might just do that someday. I’m glad your husband went out to play. :> It must have been a fun game!

    • I couldn’t stand to see if Eddie would give up or get sad or what, so when Cort said he would go play, I was SO happy. Once Cort was out there, it was like Eddie totally forgot about the other kids.

  4. “Eddie is so bold and makes friends so easily. He is so much braver than I was at that age. I am so proud when I see him feeling comfortable talking to other kids, but I feel those old fears of rejection that I clung too tightly to as a child.”

    You spoke my soul with this paragraph. My daughter is the same way – so much bolder and more outgoing than I ever was as a child. And she handles rejection so much better, too – she just shrugs it off and moves on. And yet I look on with that painfully familiar undercurrent of social anxiety and rejection that I remember from childhood. I even felt it for Eddie just now reading this post.

    Time heals all wounds, but I guess some scars are forever.

    • Yes! I was SO bad at talking to new kids when I was little. This was my first time watching him try to play with kids who ignored him. It was SO hard on me. I’m glad I didn’t have to really see how it would end and that my husband swooped in to be his playmate.

  5. Phew! I’m so glad it ended that way. I was afraid he was going to get his little heart broken. My daughter wants so badly to play with the 9 year old girl next door….but she? Just ignores Tori. Understandably so. But still…

    • I was afraid his heart would get broken too…which is why I am SO glad my husband jumped in. It’s so hard to watch people ignore our children when our children are our whole world.

  6. Jeb Hoge says

    HEART. Wow. And I watch my three sons (well, the two who’re old enough to get their feelings hurt like this) knowing that someday, something like this will happen, or something will happen and “everyone” will laugh.

    And I try to not be the one doing the rejecting, even though I know that sometimes I have.

    • It’s so hard. Because I work full-time I don’t really get to see Eddie with other kids much…other than kids of friends who we all know really well. This is the first time I ever saw someone ignore my little guy…it was HARD.

  7. Aw, so sweet. It’s hard to watch our kids get rejected but kids take it so much easier than we do… especially boys. Hayden just rolls with it and moves onto the next kid.

    • I think you’re right…but oh my goodness…I have never seen anyone ignore my little man before. When I make such an effort to hear him all the time, to see kids just plain ignore him when his request was so simple and cute…ugg! All they had to say was “no thank you,” and yet they didn’t. 🙁

  8. Bentley has been asking for “my friend Eddie” EVERY.SINGLE.DAY this week. I can’t wait for them to play together again!!! 🙂

  9. Aw, buddy. I love that he tried though. He’s so awesome.

    • He is so much braver than I was. That kid will try anything and he totally believes he can do it. That part makes me so happy.

  10. This story just pulled at my heart so much. I know that feeling. I know it deep in my insides wanting so much to be seen, to be a part of the group. My children haven’t thus far gotten to that. Ben is finishing up his kindergarten year right now, kids are still for the most part nice and inclusive. And he is nice and conscientious and hard not to like, but I know that one day there will be someone who won’t include him. Who will hurt his feelings and my heart breaks just thinking about it. I still go through those feelings of exclusion as an adult and I hope to instill him with enough confidence that it won’t break him.

    • It was one of the hardest things I have had to watch my child go through since becoming a mother. And I am fairly certain he has forgotten all about it. But I haven’t. It’s tucked in my momma heart because I know it’s just the first of unfortunately many time he will deal with rejection. It’s part of life, but oh, I wish he didn’t have to know it already.

  11. I have never been a shy person and I ask people to be friends with me wherever I go, but my husband is not like me at all. And I wonder how my 3yo little boy will be when he starts to make friends, and it’s scary! I don’t want to see him hurt or rejected, even knowing that it’s going to happen. I can’t stop hurt from happening, as much as I want to. 🙁

    • I”m not shy now, but as a kid I was horribly intimidated by the idea of just talking to kids I didn’t know. Eddie doesn’t have that at ALL. He will talk to any kid…and it’s wonderful! But I know it opens him up to rejection earlier than if he didn’t try. The thought of such a little dude getting his heart broken kills me.

  12. We have zero kids in our neighborhood. None. Drives my girls crazy. Even our oldest, at 12, wants to be around other kids (but I don’t think she’d walk up and ask to play whereas the 9 yr old wouldn’t have to. Kids tend to gravitate toward her.) I feel this most acutely at the playground when Z wants to play with other kids and they dismiss him (because he thinks kids his age are “babies” and he wants to play with the big boys “like me”). They aren’t outright rude like telling him to get away, but boy does it sting when they simply run past him as though he’s invisible. And I know. I know it’s just kid nature, especially older ones not wanting to be bothered with younger ones, but still. And yes, I do think that because we’re so aware it hurts us way more than it does them (because after a few minutes he’ll go play by himself like whatever, stupid boys, I am awesome.)

  13. Ack! My heart is breaking. Yeah for super dad to the rescue!


  1. […] • And dredging up painfully familiar memories of social anxiety from childhood – as well as speaking to my own fears as a mother – Katie Sluiter of Sluiter Nation described a heartbreaking instance of living vicariously through her outgoing son as she watched him eagerly try – and fail – to make new friends in the poignant piece Do You Want to Play Basketball? […]