It was a beautiful Colorado day today. The sky was bright, the air was clear, the temperature was in the low 70's, and the wind was clamoring the Aspen leaves so they seemed to jingle like coins in a pocket.
We seemed to crash a classmate play date today when the kids and I ventured to the local playground to catch some outside time before the weather cools. Michael and Mackenzie were playing on the tire swing when we arrived, and Abi dashed to see if it was indeed Mackenzie, her latest 'best friend' from school. For a few minutes, Abi, Mackenzie, and Michael played together nicely. It's anyone's guess what transpired next, but Mackenzie was somehow put out. She fell out of the trio. I called Abi over and asked her if Mackenzie was okay. Abi said that Mackenzie didn't want to play and said she wasn't friends anymore. I told Abi to try to include Mackenzie- play all together.
I think she tried. On at least on occasion, I saw her run over to Mackenzie, and before she reached her, Mackenzie took off in the opposite direction to avoid her. When Abi tried to leave Michael and Mackenzie to play together, Michael followed behind Abi telling her to slow down. "I want to play with you, Abi!"
I think my girl is a play yard powerhouse. She is creative and confident, and I think she jumps into play- with friends or strangers- in a way that often gets other children actively involved with her. The problem is, when there are just a couple of children, it sometimes means trouble, as it did with Mackenzie today. Try as we did, none of we three moms were able to sway the dynamic. Michael's mom encouraged him to play with both girls. Mackenzie's mom tried to comfort her. I succeeded at getting all of them on a tire swing for a few minutes before Mackenzie wanted off, and went to sadly lean against a monkey bar pole.
Well, what would you have done? On the one hand, it's a life lesson, isn't it? Jump in and play. Suck it up, kid. Carry your own, bring your strong attitude, or get left behind. Yet, isn't that a cruel thing to say when you're talking about five year olds? The purely hot blooded primal creature in me is pleased that it is my daughter that is strong, confident, and clever enough to attract playmates, and draw in participation. The socialized mother in me knows she needs to be kind to the other children and not strong arm certain kids out. It's a fine line we need to walk between strength and sensitivity.
What an interesting thing it is, to watch the dynamics of these little developing people.
What an interesting thing to feel... to not want my kid to be a bully, but to, quite carnally, be proud that she's such a social tiger.
In the end, I felt badly for Mackenzie. It was clear she would be standoffish while we stayed at the playground. I cut our hour there a wee bit short, with feelings of guilt for ruining a portion of Mackenzie's play date...
... and slight, evil feelings of pride as I watched Mackenzie inch her way back into playing with Michael now that the Alpha female slunk off to another hunt...