My son doesn’t get as much social interaction as he probably needs. I guess that’s one of the downsides of being a stay-at-home-mom is that sometimes it’s easy to forget that your kid really needs to be around other kids. Our church has very few toddlers, he hangs out with a bunch of kids speaking Korean for an hour and a half on Thursdays, and I try to take him to story time at the library every week but it’s still not really enough. All that to say that my son LOVES other kids, especially kids that are older than him, but he is pretty shy. Unless he is at home, he likes to watch them from a safe distance and usually would rather play with me. But a few weeks ago at story time he decided to break out of his shell. He left my lap (*gasp*) and sat on the floor with the other kids, interacted, and played.
There is one group of rather rambunctious friends at the library. They are all probably four or five and they always play together. Malachi really wanted to see what they were doing and he was so excited to see them playing with the plastic animals that he LOVES. I was so proud of my boy when he walked over and tried to play along. I was beaming. My heart was singing. I was actually almost teary and any other mom will tell you they understand and my husband will tell you I am a hormonal mess but whatever.
Then, that little girl. That. little. girl. You know what she did? She said, “NO!,” grabbed the woof-woof out of my son’s hands, and clutched the bucket it came from with a vice-grip. I was FURIOUS but I held it together. I told my son, “You need to say please and wait until she gives it to you.” And he did. He beamed at her, said “dee,” and picked up the doggie again. She took it back again. “NO. You can’t have it! WE’RE playing with it.” By now my face was red and smoke was coming out of my ears and I said, “You should really share” to which she responded, “He didn’t say plee-eez” to which I said, “Yes he did, actually, and those toys are for everyone.”
Far be it from me to pretend that I didn’t get raging mad at that five-year-old-girl but you know what? Malachi didn’t. He looked at me, said “woof-woof?,” pointed at the toy, and walked back to the girl smiling again. Denied again. At this point the little girl’s mom (who had been watching the ENTIRE time and saying nothing) finally decided it would be appropriate for her to chime in and told her daughter she needed to share. The little girl’s posse also had started to feel bad for my boy and each shared one animal with him which I thought was quite sweet. I’ll spare you the back-and-forth that ensued between alpha-child and overwhelmed-mother but finally the little girl was pretty much told “You can hog all the animals except for the dogs, because that is what he wants” and I kept my mouth shut because I figured “It’s about TIME you dealt with your selfish daughter who clearly controls the relationship” wasn’t the best thing to say.
Malachi, who despite not being exposed to many kids still has manners, said “dat-dee” (thank you), and happily walked back over to me to line up all his plastic doggies, his one elephant, and his one bear, respectively, in a row. He shared with the kids who came to see what he was doing, and he even gave the animals back to alpha-girl when he was done.
As we left the library, I had several feelings. I was incredibly frustrated with the girl’s mother. She told her daughter countless times to share but never enforced it. She let the girl bully my son and a few other kids because she didn’t know how to control it (or perhaps was scared to be firm in front of other mommies). I was angry at the little girl for being so selfish. She was twice my son’s age and should really have had some manners. And I was really disappointed in myself for feeling all of that. It wasn’t fair. Children at that age are the product of the situations they grew up in. And I didn’t know that mom – I don’t know her story. And while some frustration is probably understandable, some grace (which I had none of at the time) would have been a much better response. I did hold it together – she didn’t know any of the thoughts going through my mind when I smiled at her and said “Thanks” after she stepped in. But God knew my heart, and that matters more.
And lastly, I was so, so proud of my son. My son who stepped out of his comfort zone, played with other kids, shared with anyone who asked, said please and thank you (sort of), and left the library probably thinking that the little girl was his best friend because she gave him a doggie. I could learn a lot from him.