Sunday, September 30, 2007

Broken mirrors

She was sitting behind the curtain, in the closet, on a stool. Sulking.

She didn't want to play with her friend. More specifically, she didn't want her friend playing with her favorite toys. Most importantly, she didn't want to play with "her friend," the child of MY friend.

It really stinks when your kid is the one being a brat ... (I really didn't want to write that aloud. I'd rather not even think it to myself). The torture is amplified by the fact that not only do you want your kids to be happy and wealthy and wise, you also want them to be on their best behavior at the most important times. When you're trying to impress someone.

But there it is, a fact of life: sometimes ALL kids are just bratty. Even mine. Even when I beg, plead and apply the most valid terms of logic I can muster. The kid will cross their arms, dig in their heels and give you a look that could melt steel.

There she was, sitting alone in her room in a self-imposed timeout all because she didn't want to share. Words of protest streaming out of her mouth as she slammed doors and carried on generally repugnant behavior that would make any parent shiver. She just wanted to be alone.

Her friend didn't understand why she wasn't being nice. And, honestly, I didn't understand why she wasn't being nice. Just before their arrival, hadn't she jumped up and down at the prospect of having a friend over to play? Wasn't she pacing the floor waiting? Was some other child pulling on my clothes, jumping around my feet asking: "Is she here yet, mama? Is she?" over and over again?

I've always thought it's much better to be the parent of a child who gets picked on than it is to be the parent of the kid who does the picking. It may be painful to watch a kid get chosen last for a team or called names or excluded all together, but it is even more disappointing when yours is the one responsible for all the heartache.

As parents I think we are always worried our kids will feel pain. We can't stand the idea of them being mistreated even by a same-size "friend." When Ittybit was a tot and we'd stroll on over to the park I would be traumatized by the preschoolers who'd laugh or spiral their index fingers by their temples -- sticking out their tongues and rolling their eyes -- when she'd tell them she was collecting "a-torns" even though they could plainly see her plump toddler fists were stuffed with pebbles.

I wanted to wipe the look of smarmy bratness right off their faces (preferably with sandpaper). And I wanted Ittybit to be their polar opposite.

And yet I knew that sooner or later, I'd be refraining myself from applying sandpaper to her twisted little face when she was old enough to know the difference between acorns and rocks, and old enough to forget about the wonderful world of pretend.

Was I supposed to ignore the festering child in the darken room? Was I supposed to drag her out and make a scene? I opted to speak to her quietly. Ask her how she would feel if she went to someone's house and THEY wouldn't let HER play with their toys? I suggested if there were special toys she was afraid would get damaged we could put those away so nobody would harm them.

A little while later (but not the instantly I was hoping for) she came around.

I thought about all those times on the playground, when I was wondering "where are the parents of this little boy throwing rocks near my infant daughter," I was too high above the situation to see it for what it was: just another clueless parent like me, wondering what they should be "doing."

I knew every mistake was supposed to be a learning experience. I just didn't think it would be my learning experience. Of course I also thought I had more time. Say, the teen years.


Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yup, yup and yup.

One funny thing: my friend's daughter got mad at my daughter and three other kids. She screamed, "I AM NEVER PLAYING WITH YOU AGAIN!!!!!!" and stomped her foot for emphasis. Then, a second later, she mumbled, "well, at least until we're upstairs again". I laughed at this postscript; her mother was mortified. Sometimes kids get themselves into a snit and need to have a 'way out'---you gave that to your daughter by talking to her and giving her a way to save face, y/k?

Pageant Mom said...

I agree with fairly odd mother.

My Gizmo is extrememly strong willed and has a friend who is even more so.

They play great for awhile, then they fight - and since they both can have "willful brat" friend and I have to break what we are doing to interfere, and often. Usually we try to offer a distraction and get them to do something else, or perhaps give them a complicated snack, or whatever - and that sometimes works. And other times, we just jack one or the other up (so to speak) and we have to scold them because frankly, we just have to shut down the bad behavior. I am finding, if it's any solace, that the older they get, the moments are becoming fewer and farther between :o)

But every child is different, and this is normal behavior really. You just have to keep trying to find out what makes your child tick and work with it! With Patience and Love!! (but admittedly I sometimes flunk the patience part LOL)