My daughter is lonely. She cries that though no one is mean to her, no one invites her in. By this she means that she sits with whomever is at the cafeteria table, but she wants to walk in and have a posse of girls call out her name because they’ve saved her a seat.

I know the feeling.

At recess she heads right to the swings, she tells me that no one walks up with her or says, “C’mon Annie!” She wants the worried feeling she gets when they say lunch is over, and she knows recess is inevitable, to go away.

I know the feeling.

I told her that I’ve been there and then I explain a bit about life. “I guess,” I say, “that some people are fine with friends who are more surface-y. Ones who don’t really share who they are, just what they do. It’s okay that you want more from them, but it can be hard to find, especially at 10.” The soccer kids and the we’ve-been-friends-forever ones don’t feel right to her. They don’t feel like a fit for Annie who wants to develop secret languages and try on clothes and share books she loves.

I know the feeling.

I tell her that she might need to ride a unicycle. She knows what I mean by this because I’ve said it before. It means you have to do it alone, you have to find a balance, and it’s probably going to be scary before it gets fun. She is terrified when I tell her that she needs to approach someone who she wants to eat lunch with or play with and ask them to join her. Her eyes well up with tears and she shakes her head. I explain that unless she takes the initiative, it might not happen. She says she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

I wake up this morning dreading that she must go it alone. That the journey is her unicycle to balance, not mine. I can give her the tools and encouragement, but I can’t get her the friends. I can’t help her see that there really are people out there who like what she likes and want her for a friend. So even if riding the unicycle on this one scares her, I still have to wait and watch.

I know the feeling all too well.