Having a sweet, loving child who is often shy, yet considerate most of the times, with fellow children; makes it almost unfathomable that you’ll hear this phrase from a little mouth. “Mommy, she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.”
Bunny has always had 1 best friend. In his previous school, he had the same best friend for more than 2 years straight. They were inseparable. If she wasn’t at school, he’d easily play with someone else so I was content in knowing that he had more than just one friend. I even asked the teacher about it, she confirmed that he was well liked by his peers and was often the center of attention.
Now in his new school, it seemed he was doing the same thing again. Attaching himself to one girl. From his description of her, she sounded very similar in looks compared to his old bff. Every day I would ask who he played with and who did what etc. And so far, he’s only mentioned her. If I asked for the names of boys or other girls in his class, he’d just say that he doesn’t know their names. But still, I hoped that over time his little circle of friends would grow.
But then last week, my almost 5-year-old came home after school, acting besides himself. He was rude, whiny, teary eyed and in general a little nightmare; more than usual. Despite various usual questions and activities throughout the afternoon, he spiraled further down into a bag of unpleasantness. Both Mr Bear and I were at breaking point by the time it was his bed routine. We’ve run out of compromises, negotiations, threats, patience and quite frankly enough eff’s were given for the day. The sooner he gets into bed, the better for the sanity of this entire household.
Instead of allowing him to see that I was about to loose it with him; I decided to do the bath routine with him, instead of Mr Bear. I stayed calm and asked random little questions about his day at school since they had an event at school. He told me something trivial regarding his day and quickly asked me why I don’t believe him. This was odd to me, as I did believe him and more surprisingly, it was a phrase he’d had never used before. I then asked him who at school didn’t believe him. And there I found my answer. “Cinderella.”*
And then it happened. My little boy looked down and started crying. “She doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.” I was shocked. My little boy’s heart was shattered. His behavior of the day suddenly made sense. I wasn’t there to protect him. But most importantly, yet, scary, this is something he will have to learn to deal with by himself with only tools that I can offer him to use.
Upon questioning what happened, I learned that they had a disagreement about a simple thing. She believed in the one thing. And he believed in the opposite. Something so trivial yet in the life of a young child, it was something absolutely major and enough to break up a friendship.
I calmly explained to him that it was okay to differ in opinions. It was okay to not agree with each other the whole time. It was okay to see things differently or experience something differently. But I also ensured he understood that it was not okay to force someone to agree with you on everything. We used some examples of daily life things as well as of different relationships and he seemed to understand. I asked him what he is going to do when he sees Cinderella again and he said he’ll tell her that she can believe in what she wants and then they can play again. He then asked me whether I still love him and like him even though we disagree on things. Upon which I promptly told him that I will always love him, especially when we have different opinions.
My little boy had calmed down and was the loving child again.
After tucking him into bed, I went to Mr Bear and told him what I had found out. A sigh of understanding was sighed. And yet, I was only half way to helping my child regarding friends and relationships.
After some consultation with my mommy-groups and some reading up on articles and blogs, I was ready to bring up this subject the next day.
The following morning, I brought it up as calmly as possible. I told Bunny that I had different friends. I had friend A and friend B that I spoke to about any and everything almost daily. And I had friend C and D who I go with for coffee. And friend E and F who I share some vino with. And then I had my bff who was his daddy. I told him that even with my bff, Mr Bear, we don’t always agree on everything and sometimes we might argue about it. But most importantly, we respect each other’s viewpoints and often come to a compromise on an issue or we agree to disagree and that was fine too. With this he understood that it was ok to have more than one friend and that you didn’t have to do everything with just one person, all the time.
I continued by giving him examples of how to use this at school. He could have 1 or 2 friends to color in with. Another to kick the ball with. Another to sit with during lunch or to walk to a certain class.
He at first said he only wants Cinderella to be his friend, but I then asked him who he will play with if she is sick and not at school for the day or what would he do if she didn’t want to do the same activity that he wants to do at the time. He thought about it and then mentioned another name of a child he can play with. And with that, I knew he’d understood the message.
It’s hard to bring up a child who doesn’t have all the tools in life. It’s hard to not break your own heart when theirs are breaking or feel sad when they’re sad. In this day and age, one can only teach respect and understanding and hope that they understand it and will use it.
Have you been in a similar situation with your little one? How did you handle it?
* Name changed, obviously to ensure anonymity 🙂
** After his next day of school, I asked him how Cinderella was and he said they’re friends again. So all is well again 🙂