I got The Question last night. Ok, not the question, but a pretty hard one nonetheless.
"Mommy, why weren't they playing with me?"
And there you go. We have officially entered the land of frenemies. My four-year-old was in the company of a group of kids last night, most of whom were school-age, and felt what it is to be shunned.
"I wanted to play, but they wouldn't play with me."
I sat there for a second and just stared at her, taking in the quizzical look on her face. She didn't seem hurt by the shunning, but more wondering, in the most innocent, 4-year-old way possible, "Dub T Eff. I wanted to dress-up, cook some plastic food, and run around pretending like I'm a fairy on crack. Why wouldn't these beeyotches work with me?"
I wasn't completely unaware of the interactions that had taken place last night at our neighbor's home between my kid and The Others, all of whom probably thought nothing more than that this little four-year-old was too "babyish." M's one little friend -- who she's glommed onto in a sometimes overbearing, borderline single-white-female love affair since she was about three -- was off to the races with the big girls, leaving M confused and bewildered.
"But, we were playing the night before," M stated, matter-of-factly.
Yeah, but last night she didn't have these new, shinier options. Wake up, sweetheart. You're only good enough if there ain't no one else around.
"I know honey. But sometimes you just have to give her space. Just do your own thing."
Not one to take "no" for an answer, M often decides the best modus operandi to deal with a lukewarm response to a "let's play" offer is to really force the issue. Like psychotically grabbing the object of her affection's hand, calling his/her name over and over and over again (yeah, that one's awesome. I think I'll give it a shot next time I feel like someone isn't listening to me), or horror of horrors, asking the other child "Why don't you want to play with me?" It's one thing to watch your kid get the shaft, but then quite another to watch them socially implode attempting to deal with it.
When I see this happening, it's like I'm having an out-of-body experience and watching my child train wreck in slow motion.
"Wanna play in the kitchen? Wanna cook some food? Hello? Whyyyy woooon't youuu plaaaay with meeeee?"
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" I yell in that creepy, deep slow motion voice as I hurl myself through the air to save her from further humiliation.
We try and explain the ways of the world, boiled down for a 4-year-old. Teach her that there are going to be kids in this world she's going to like more, some kids that are going to like her more, et cetera, et cetera. Not every kid is always going to play what she wants to play every time she wants to play it. So, the best way is to leave it, and that kid, alone.
Still, as a mom, it's hard think about her bruised little feelings.
So, I got a little sad. She didn't seem all that bummed by the diss, but it didn't matter. My heart sank for her. Because, looking at it through the lens of a mother, it's not just little kids playing and carelessly disregarding my child. It's people hurting her. I wanted to hug her and tell her that one day, she will have more friends than she knows what to do with and, in the meantime, she's really lucky to have such a bitchin' mom.
"They were probably doing some big-girl stuff. Sometimes bigger girls have a different way of playing than little girls," I finally answered. And then I tickled her.
She threw her head back, laughed, wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed.
God help both of us when someone breaks her heart for the first time...