Today was a tough evening for my almost 5 year old. She was playing outside with my husband before bed and saw a couple of the neighbor kids in their pool…with some friends. Of course she wanted to go in, and had trouble understanding why she wasn’t invited.
I watched out the window as my husband carried her in, sobbing. Initially I was a bit mortified that we caused a scene outside, but as soon as I saw her my heart softened.
She looked so sad, so little. And she said to me, “Mama, I wasn’t invited. Why wasn’t I invited? Why didn’t they want me to swim with them?” I picked her up and sat on the couch with her, and hugged her. I could feel the disappointment in her little frame as she cried into my chest.
I realized that this was probably a teaching moment. That I should try to use it to explain that this is how it feels to be left out, and let’s make sure we show kindness so nobody else feels that way around us. So I tried. I tried to tell her that that didn’t mean they weren’t her friends “but mama, they NEVER invite me to swim and I always see my other friends there.” (that was a tough one). Truth is, that does happen. We have had playdates with the kids that live there, but she hasn’t gotten a “swim invitation.” But I know it’s their home, their pool, and they are under no obligation to invite my child. I was in no way upset with them.
I know this is a lesson that my daughter would be learning soon anyway…the first of many. But it was so hard. The look in her eyes were of genuine hurt. And confusion. Even though I tried my best to explain it to her in a way that she could understand (we don’t always have playdates with everyone, sometimes friends like to play with other friends) it really hurt my heart to see her sad. Because to her, it was so easy. Everyone plays together.
But I used it as a lesson about inclusion. How when she is playing on her swingset with a friend, how she can call out and say “do you want to come play with me?”
Although she cried a lot last night, she woke up her usual happy self. I am hoping that tonight’s outside playtime doesn’t rekindle the same sadness, and that she knows what to expect and can move past it. I hate seeing my kiddo hurting, but I know this is the first of many difficult life lessons for her.