503. Two

Two is an important number when it comes to human beings. People start out as one, of course, but they very quickly try, with all their might, to find a way to be two. Most people start out relying on a parent to provide the twoness, but that doesn’t last. So there are best friends, and later on, attempts to establish other kinds of twoness. Sometimes it works, somewhat, and sometimes not.
Given that very human tendency, it’s too bad about school. School isn’t a good place to be two. School may tell you where to sit, what group to be in, what class to be in, and more. If you have a best friend, you may get lucky and get to spend some time with that friend, but you can’t rely on that. And since situations can help create and/or maintain friendships, there’s no telling what will happen to your twoness if you’re not both in the same class. Your best friend and you have to find some way to get through the day, and that may mean linking up with other people – creating new twos – possibly new best friends. It can be a little like the promises that are made as two united souls go off to separate colleges; you don’t know what the new environment will do to the twoness.
But school’s gotta do what it’s gotta do, and one thing it’s gotta do is guard children against exclusion. Some wedding vows refer to “forsaking all others,” and there are lots of variations on that theme – both on how the phrase is interpreted, and on the degree to which it’s a part of the vow that’s kept. But school doesn’t and shouldn’t let you forsake anybody. What looks like closeness – intimacy – mutuality – outside school can look like exclusion in school. Outside school, there aren’t so many possible relationships from which to feel obviously excluded; you can invite friend B over, and it’s easily understood that you can’t invite friend C over, too. Children can still be and/or feel excluded, but that exclusion and/or feeling is not as conspicuous.
But in each classroom, there are lots of children who are all about the same age. At home, a child who doesn’t hang out with contemporaries can have all kinds of reasons: there may be no contemporaries nearby; there may be many things to do as a family; the home may be too small. But in school, each child has plenty of children who could be friends, and though the situation is artificial – many children, all about the same age, all spending the day together, mostly in one room – it’s also a real situation, and has to be treated as real.
So child A, I know you’re really good friends with child B, but if child C wants to play with you, you’ve got to let him/her play, too. You can play alone if you want, but if you let child B play with you, you’ve got to find ways to make sure children C, D, E, F, and G aren’t left out. You can be exclusive at home, but not in school.

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