We went on vacation to my hometown. Over the course of two weeks, Cookie was forced to play with many strange children, most between the ages of two and five, most girls. (Cookie’s three.)
Normally she plays with two boys a bit younger than her. She’s a calming influence, they look up to her, and the three have learned about sharing and gentleness together over the last year and a half. Apparently she’s had it easy.
Most of her play dates on her vacation were violent and nasty and sadly traumatic. There was much slapping and pulling of toys and snarky comments. Cookie’s no angel, but she’s pretty reserved and she was not on her turf, so she was never the instigator. It was somewhat heartening to see her gradually build up nerve and learn to pull back and reprimand, but mostly heartbreaking. There were many tears. Some were almost mine. Very rarely did Cookie break down and say she didn’t want to play with the raging toddler bitch of the day, but I could tell she always wanted to say it. But in all cases the parents we were visiting were friends, and we couldn’t exactly leave because their children weren’t playing nice. So Cookie learned to face each encounter with grim fatalism.
The worst part is that I had to be diplomatic and I couldn’t parent other peoples’ kids, so I ended up defending the other kid’s behaviour to her. I had to tell her to share. I had to explain that the other child was still learning to express emotions, so Cookie had to understand why they were abusing her. I hate this. I remember this, the feeling that my mom wasn’t on my side. I still feel that. I don’t want Cookie to ever, but I’ve already done it, and it kills me.
After a day spent with two particular girls and their cousins, two boys, another day with the girls. Cookie asked, “Where are the boys?” The boys who were gentle and helpful and sharing. At this age, boys have yet to make her cry.
I recognize and remember this experience. Girls were always competitive and jealous. Boys could care less about that shit; they just wanted to play. Then, for a few years they were just as bossy and even more aggressive, but then the pre-teen years hit and they were the fun ones again. I always had girlfriends; I learned to play well with others, but my friendships with guys were much less complicated (until they weren’t).
I want my daughter to have simple, generous, loving relationships with girls, as she does now with her two best friends, the boys. I knew in time this mean-girl stuff would come, but it breaks my heart to see how nasty girl relationships are from the beginning. Is this just the way kids are? Is there anything we can do, other than explain, “She’s still learning to share,” “She doesn’t know how to say that she’s sad or angry or jealous,” and “She needs you to show her how to play together”? Is there another way to get her to love other girls, other than taking their side rather than hers? Surely not, but I haven’t googled it yet. I’ve been too busy visiting my lovely girlfriends and their bitchy daughters.
East End Mama
[image: Little girls by Lydia Coventry]