Friday, June 11, 2010


:not adequate: insufficient; also :not capable

Sometimes it's the little things that rock my world. K had a friend over to play today. All was well for the first hour or two until I heard from K's room:

"I want to take it home to keep!"
"But it's my favorite one," was the reply.
I go in to find K sitting tearfully in one corner, her friend glaring from the other corner. When I asked what was wrong, K burst into tears and said, "She won't be my friend if I don't give her my pony!"

I thought this surely wasn't the case, until I questioned the friend more closely. K was pretty close to right. Her friend insisted that she would not be happy until K gave her one toy to keep and one toy to borrow. I was baffled. We talked about that we go to friends' houses to be with them, not to have them give us things. She replied that whenever another little girl came to her house, she always gave her a toy.

I asked how it made her feel when her friend asked to have one of her toys and she replied, "Happy." K was still crying and when I asked how it made K feel to be asked for a toy, the friend replied, "Sad, but I want at least one toy to keep." K offered to let her friend play with the toy the entire visit, but this did not satisfy her friend. K even explained that she had initially told her friend she could have the toy, but changed her mind. I think it's OK for a six year old to change her mind, but I don't think it's OK for a six year old to bully her friend into giving away a toy.

I felt completely inadequate to handle the situation, especially when K's friend picked up a toy, threw it at K and hit K in the head - with me sitting right there. At that point, I offered to call the friend's parents to come and get her early. She burst into tears and said that she wanted to stay, she just needed a few minutes to herself. She said she didn't mean to hit her with the toy and was only trying to give it back without getting close to her. I'm not sure whether this was true, but it gave me an out, so I asked if she'd like five minutes alone.

K and I retreated and got together a snack of ice cream. The ice cream seemed to smooth over the rough edges my words were unable to soften and the two girls managed to play together for another hour or so.

I, on the other hand, was left shaken. As I retreated to the basement to take care of laundry, I pondered why a six year old could make me fearful. Because I'm pretty sure it was fear I felt as I tried to help K's friend understand that she was hurting K by demanding that K give her something. She was unrepentant and unrelenting in her demands, but I'm the grown up, so why was I afraid? My elder daughter A has a friend who scares me as well, but she's older and looks at me with such malevolence that I've always understood my fear of her. But understanding it doesn't make it reasonable, rational or acceptable. Can I be a good mom to my daughters if I walk through life afraid?

If I'm not afraid of my own daughters, why do some of their friends intimidate me? Why am I incapable of seeing that these six, eight or ten year olds don't have power over me? Why do I even care if they disagree with me or look at me scathingly? If I can't handle a fight between two six year olds, how do I expect to navigate parenting three daughters through adolescence?

This isn't one of those posts where I'm going to come up with a nice, neat solution for dealing with my inadequacy. I honestly don't know the answers to these questions, but I feel a bit better having asked them out loud.


Variations On A Theme said...

Oh, I feel your pain. A similar situation happened with Olivia when she was six or seven. (It wasn't nearly as intense as yours, though.) I immediately told the girl that her behavior was not acceptable and I called her parents came to get her. I know I got too involved and over-reacted, but I was so angry. I felt like a child myself for letting this kid affect me so.

Another time, that same child was treating Olivia horribly, and I told her she had better stop. She looked at me with such hatred, my first thought was, "She would slit my throat." Then she immediately said something else horrible to Olivia. I couldn't send her away, as I was watching her for the weekend while the parents were out of town. But I determined at that point to make lots of other playdates for my girl and avoid her as much as possible.

And now they're friends and the girl has grown and matured beautifully.

I get shaky with anger when I see my kids treated badly. And I hate feeling intimidated by kids. About a year ago a friend of Olivia's visited and blatantly did something I had just told her not to do. I corrected her and she yelled at me with a frightful attitude. I was shaky with anger, as I crouched down, looked her in the eye and said (in a very firm voice), "We do NOT do that here. You will absolutely not be welcome in my house if it continues." She behaved perfectly for the rest of her stay, but I was afraid I'd crushed her.

She'd gone upstairs, so I sent Olivia to check on her. She was perfectly happy, playing with the dollhouse. I was shocked. I'd still be in therapy if that had happened to me as a child.

Realization: every child needs different boundaries. This child needed a very firm one to respect an adult and feel safe. These friends of Olivia's are cool kids, and they're maturing as they grow older.

My challenge is to remind myself that they're children and will learn. But my immediate and (possibly too intense) instinct is to protect my kids. My animal brain takes over and I think in black and white.

Even now, I'm thinking, "How dare anyone treat K that way! (ESPECIALLY sweet K!) I'd never let that child come over again!" But I'm sure that girl has many other wonderful qualities, otherwise K wouldn't choose her as a friend.

You were much more calm than I would have been, and you're not alone in feeling intimidated by children.

WordGirl said...

Lisa - can't tell you how much better this comment makes me feel. While I was going through this conversation with K and her friend, I thought to myself, "What would Lisa do?" because you always seem so good with not just your own children, but other people's children as well. (I also thought, "What would Jenny Martin do?")

I'm also encouraged to hear that Olivia's friend outgrew this. I was really appalled by the behavior and had a talk with K that night about how I never, ever want her to make a friend feel the way she felt during this play date.

Thanks for letting me know that I'm not the only one to find this part of parenting difficult!

The Mom said...

mine came to me when we were struggling with a playground bully situation at school and said, I want to bring XXXX cookies. I was a little surprised, but my own child told me that they had been studying the Proverb "to feed your enemy," we cooked and talked and my child got excited about loving this playground "enemy" this way. Miracle of miracles, this person later became not an "enemy," but a friend. I know that God helped my child not to be the victim or to perpetuate the cycle by bullying another in return. I will pray that the Lord will grant both you and K wisdom and as you talk through this, she will see, not that you have all of the answers, but that you know to whom to turn with your concerns... to the ever faithful and ever loving Heavenly Father. Much love to you in this great journey we call motherhood!