Kids learning about friendship

“But they’re my best friends, and they never want to play with me!” cried Hazel, so sad.

Oh my. It is hard to watch your kid start to enter the complicated world of social interaction with a child’s understanding, and a child’s heart. Her neighbors, T and J, are brothers, one year older and one year younger than she is, respectively. The older brother isn’t as comfortable with people in general, and perhaps with Hazel specifically. Today they kept running up to our house, calling for her, and then running away screaming with laughter as soon as she came to the door. She wound up sobbing on the couch. I know that a) it is likely not mean-spirited, but a game in which they expect her to run out and chase them, but that b) especially with their history of telling her they don’t want to play with them she won’t see it that way, and c) none of them have the emotional communication chops to discuss it, and that d) I need to keep an even tone even when I feel distressed about it.

I have been asking her lately what she likes about so and so, and why they’re her best friend (a term she uses pretty much indiscriminately to describe anyone she wants to play with). I’ve been trying to encourage her to consider what she likes and what she doesn’t like, rather than just focusing on whether someone wants to be with her or not.

I want to put my head under a pillow, really.

I wasn’t graceful when I asked their dad about it (I tried to be, but didn’t manage), and should have waited to talk with him later, when I was entirely calm myself.

Social interactions are sometimes so hard. And the interweaving of the interactions between parents and kids complicates them even more.

But here’s the thing: no one *has* to play with Hazel if they don’t want to, and that is a tough lesson to learn. It can be so hard, to grant people their right to free choice and not take it personally, to realize that people have moods and desires, and right now doesn’t have to determine tomorrow or next week.

Sometimes I feel so damn clumsy in this parenting gig.


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