I know the exact moment that M first made a friend. Most people can probably point to a handful of children who are their children's oldest friends - children of their close friends, they've been friends since they were in diapers, grew up together, always had playedates etc etc. Not us.
At three years old, M didn't have a single friend. He just couldn't connect with other kids. We'd hang out with our friends who had kids and call our kids "best buds" but they weren't. At best, they'd play side by side without interacting. At worst, M would inevitably make them cry. He was not malicious, but he was too rough, too loud, too impulsive, and wasn't a great sharer.
Our good friends the Heils came to visit last spring. They taught at ICS with me several years ago, and though we were casual friends at the time, Malia has become very dear to me since then. We connected through our pregnancies and sharing motherhood stories, and we always find time to connect whenever they visit Thailand.
This trip, M and Mika really hit it off. We spent an afternoon together and M did not leave Mika's side. They sat reading books together at the bookstore, he held her hand and asked her questions, she smiled and reciprocated. Whim and I couldn't stop marveling at how sweet he was being to her. He had literally never treated another child that way before. We must have at least 50 pictures of that outing because we were so amazed.
At that point M had been additive free for just a few weeks, and I didn't immediately realize that the specialness of the day had anything to do with his diet. But now, looking back, it's easy to see how much his life changed when we changed the way we were eating. He has plenty of friends now, and I'd say our friends' children really are his friends, too.
And that's much sweeter than any brightly-dyed lollypop.