my daughter was the mean girl today

So my daughter was the mean girl at the park today.

We had a playdate at the park with some friends. In fact, their whole family came, and our whole family went. It was a day I was looking forward to – it’s hard for me to take both kids to this particular park due to size and their ages – so since my husband was off work, it worked out perfectly.  When I told my daughter S that we were going to be meeting her friend L for a playdate, the first thing she said was “I don’t want to play with her.”

The two girls are a year apart – mine almost 5, L is almost 6. During every playdate, they have a great time. They always fight. They always cry when it’s time to go home. It’s a love-hate sort of friendship, I think.  My daughter behaves a little differently with L than she does with other friends, but I am noticing a trend. She is becoming very conscious of girls that are older than her (never boys) that know more, can do more, are taller, are older.  And suddenly over the last few months it upsets her very much.

So today, when L came up to me and said “S doesn’t want to go on the swings” I walked over to my daughter and found a pouting little one. She said “I don’t want to play with her. I just want to play by myself.” I tried explaining that we were only here for a little while, and the purpose of coming was to play together. That’s when she ran off and I figured I’d give her some time.

About 10 minutes, later, her friend L came up to me again. “S said that she’s not my friend and that she won’t be inviting me to her birthday party and that she’s not coming to mine.” Except this time she started crying. I walked back over to my daughter who was still in a crabby mood.  “S, we don’t say things like that to people. It hurts their feelings. It dips into their bucket. And, it’s mean.

I don’t care.” said my stubborn child.  I was SO embarrassed.  And sad for her friend, who I don’t think has ever said anything mean to my child. My kiddo was just being a rude, selfish, mean girl. Every time L would try to play with her, I could tell she would tell her to go away.

Then, when it was time to go, my lovely little girl said to L “I don’t care if we never play together again.” to which L started bawling. This was as we were walking to our cars, with me apologizing for my daughter’s behavior. I mean, what mom would EVER bring her daughter to a playdate if it was with my child, if she had this attitude? I certainly wouldn’t look forward to putting my kid in that position.

What shocked me was the lack of empathy in my daughter today. My daughter, the one who sets aside clothes and toys for donation “for the kids that don’t have any mama.” My daughter, the one who has herself sobbed when she has felt left out. Even during the short car ride home, I told her how disappointed I was in her behavior.  That we don’t treat other people that way.  She just plain didn’t care.

I’m really, really hoping this is a phase that passes. Because up until now, I was always so worried about how my daughter felt when other kids made her sad. I didn’t really focus on the fact that it could be my child that was doing the hurting.  But, I am laser focused on it now. I’m still thinking about how to talk to her about it again tomorrow. We did call L and apologize when we got home, but that’s definitely not enough.  Ugh.

finding a teaching moment in a difficult one

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.