Ella will always be an only child.

That’s starting to bug us, Trish and I.

There are two little girls who live on our block who Ella likes to play with. Meagan is also 2.5, Emmy is a year or two older. But both of these girls go to daycare, while Ella stays home with Trish. In the afternoons, these kids aren’t often outside; Ella is ALWAYS outside, even when it rains. So she doesn’t get to play with the kids very much. She sees a kid named Chase once a week or so. But she’s started saying, “where are my kids? I want to play with my kids.”

One day last weekend Ella saw Meagan go into Emmy’s backyard, and Ella said to Trish, “I want to go in that backyard.” Trish had to explain that she wasn’t invited.

There’s a 13-year-old boy across the street who plays basketball in his driveway almost every afternoon. He’s kind of geeky, but he’s quiet, well mannered and he seems to be pretty nice. A couple of weeks ago Ella wanted to go see this boy. We walked over and met Adam. Now, in the afternoons, she wants to go play with him. A few times Trish has walked over with her, and they sat and watched, and Ella ran down a few rebounds for Adam.

It’s a little sad, Ella’s quest for a playmate.

Personally, I think Meagan cries too much and she looks a little weird, like her face is frozen in a twisted, tortured expression. And Emmy is just a bizarre kid. She runs into our garage to grab Ella’s toys while her impudent father stands in the street saying, “Emmy, don’t do that. Emmy, wait. Emmy, come back. Emmy, don’t go in there.” Emmy runs up to people and kisses them, which gives me the creeps. And I’d like to smack some sense into Emmy’s dad.

When Emmy and Meagan are outside playing, they’re usually so rambunctious and obnoxious, crying and kissing and riding each others toys that Ella usually stands back and watches. She’s a watcher. She wants to play but she’s uncertain of the insanity her peers are part of.

I know I’m not supposed to confuse my childhood with my child’s childhood. No projecting and all that crap. But it’s difficult. I remember being that kid. I stayed home with my grandmother. My brother was older and had other interests that didn’t include me. I saw other kids playing, but I couldn’t engage. I wanted to. I even wanted to go to daycare, but we couldn’t afford it, or maybe I didn’t want to go badly enough.

The one huge difference, of course, between my rearing and Ella’s is Trish. I was someone’s responsibility. Adults figured out a way to fit me into their schedules. When I didn’t have someone to play with I turned on Sesame Street. To us, and Trish especially, Ella is something to be nurtured. We plan our days, when possible, completely around Ella. When Ella doesn’t have someone to play with Trish makes up games. When she’s in the car screaming, I’m more likely to tell Ella to just chill out; Trish will remember a song to sing. Already I can tell that Trish has made Ella more confident and self-assured than I ever was, or maybe than I am now, just by making sure she’s the center of attention, at least for a little while each day.

My friend Nancy has three girls, all really great kids. One’s graduating from college, one’s graduating from high school and the other is a junior (?) in high school. They grew up together, but they have three very distinct personalities, which I think is a sign of Nancy and Mark’s parenting skills.

I wonder what kind of person Ella will be, without sisters to play with, or fight with for that matter. From whom will she draw influences? Meagan? Emmy? God help us!

Ella looks like me, and I think there are a lot of similarities in our personalities. Fortunately, she has Trish to polish the rough edges. It’s going to be interesting, watching this kid grow.