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.