2/5/14

Kids and Friends

This post was going to be about little girls, but I realized this week, after listening to my middle guy growling about a problem with his friend, that I really need to include boys too because navigating friendship is hard for everyone.  The event that kicked off my rambling mind on this subject was a birthday party for my daughter's best friend from preschool.  Party anticipation was high in the week or so before the party.  Lot's of  "I can't wait. . . " among the friends who see each other every day at school.

When party day arrived the actual event was a mix of girls that included people the birthday girl doesn't see everyday.  As you might predict, the girl who is seldom seen was the object of the birthday girl's attention. Though that is probably pretty normal behavior, it became a bit hard to swallow when my daughter came crying to me because her best friend just told her "I don't want to play with you."  Alas, upon hearing our dilemma, a nearby mom redirected her own daughter to include mine in play.  Whew!  (awesome! thank you!)

The not so awesome part came when we gathered for a group picture.  A little girl sat next to my daughter and lamented, "Let's not sit next to insert birthday girl's name." the tension among grownups thickened then.  I wanted in the worst way to intervene in a way that would help, but not knowing the full situation I wasn't sure how to proceed.  I know that particular little girl tends to be of the more unfiltered variety and that she had no idea she was suddenly under scrutiny of a dozen or so parents, and I suspected (and was confirmed by my little girl) that she suffered the same fate, being told by the birthday girl "I am not going to play with you."  Nonetheless judgement filled the air faster than smoke fills the room when I forget to open the damper on the chimney.  I really dislike that darned "judgement" sneaking in through cracks and crevices whenever grownups disagree on how to hand hard stuff.

Picture time was soon over, and we were off to have food and cake in another room where my girl and unfiltered girl sat with birthday girl only to have birthday girl move to a different table.  The jilted friends made the most of it and the other mom and I sat with them, because everyone else kept a safe distance at another table or the other end of our table.  This was one party I couldn't wait for the end of!  Oy!  Now I don't, I repeat don't want to make this an attack on parenting, but I do have to say if you actually hear a child say a mean thing in front of lots of people. . . she is probably not the actual mean girl! You all remember what ASSUME stands for! To me this was a classic case like those that have been confounding the socially awkward or unaware children of our world for ages. When people buy in, it encourages bullying and a lack of empathy toward those who most need understanding or even to see and hear how empathy should look. . . see and hear over and over and over, cause it's just hard for some kids to figure out how to show it.  I spent the whole ride home pondering what I could have said, but alas "could've, should've, would've"

So then fast forward to a recent event with my son.  He keeps on the straight and narrow path at school, keeps his cool (except apparently when mom is in volunteering).  He is well liked, very personable, and enjoys helping his friends.  He seems to be paired up with one friend quite a bit this year, and he talks about helping this guy out a lot, keeping him on track and explaining things he doesn't understand.  The road gets bumpy some days when this guy pesters my son or teases him.  While I was in the room last week my guy had a bit of a blowout when his friend teased him about writing a letter to a 'girl'.  "My sister!" could be heard throughout the room, soon the class was on alert, why was C so upset?   At this point I am hoping the snow day was a long enough cool down period, because my boy can hold on to some serious anger, I am going to remind him that alienating his pesky friend (or encouraging other friends to dislike him) is not the right thing to do, even though it might feel good out of anger, but this is a bit of a washed out area in the sand for me because if I push too hard he will think I am taking sides- yes he will.  So I am thinking, How do we teach our kiddos to set boundaries for themselves without the need to be mean about it?

Back to my little girl in the car this week, she was crabbier than usual with me after school one day, and I decided to try a little Ross Greene on her.  "You seem to be upset about something and I don't think it is just that I took a different road home, what's up?"  Worked like a charm, she spilled her little guts and told me how her BF (yes the very same one and only) wanted to do a puzzle together, but she (daughter) wanted to do the puzzle herself so she told BF "no".  Now she was worried that BF went to another part of the room looking upset.  So we talked about how it is ok to say no, but that it is important to try to do it in a kind way. All by her five year old self, she came with a next time solution and seemed satisfied with the prospect of talking to BF next time at school to be sure all is still well with their friendship.  I think every day that this little girl was given to me to teach me all those wise things that little old souls know.  Love that girl.