In the car on the way home from something, Amy was talking, and one thing she said was that X and Y had been mean to her. I forget her exact phrasing — “I don’t like X and Y; they’re mean,” or “X and Y were being mean to me,” or “I don’t like it when X and Y are mean to me,” or what. I wish I remembered — sometimes small differences in phrasing offer insight into the issue.
I tried to ask questions and listen, but I still think I jumped in too quickly with advice. I don’t remember if I said anything dismissive (like “Oh, X and Y are your friends,” or “You like X and Y most of the time”). I know I said something about it being okay to leave when someone’s being mean — you don’t have to stay there and let someone be mean to you. And if you can’t get up and leave (stuck in the same room or something), you can say “That’s mean, and I don’t like it,” and you can stop listening. (Ha! Easier said than done.) I said something about children sometimes being able to resolve such things on their own, and sometimes parents being able to help. Yeesh — how to help a kid learn when to ask for help, and how? You don’t want to foster tattling, but you don’t want your kid to feel she’s abandoned to the mercies of her peers.
It’s not like Amy’s all angelic and peace and cooperation and sharing. She’s extremely bossy when she’s playing with us, anyway — how and where to sit, what to say, what to touch and how, and so on. We’re working on that — trying to show her that we love her and love being with her even when we want to play with something our own way or don’t want to do some thing she’s asking us to do.
I don’t think I’ve seen her being bossy with other kids — she’ll complain if someone’s still playing with something she wants to play with, and she’ll complain if someone tries to take something she wants to play with, and sometimes she’ll complain if someone comes along and plays next to her, but I don’t think I’ve heard her tell other kids to do this or that. And when she does complain, usually it’s to me — the few times she’s said she doesn’t like someone have been telling me, and I don’t think she intends the other kid to hear it.
Perhaps her saying X and Y were being mean was akin to saying she just didn’t like what they were doing or saying at the time. She does that with us when we’re frustrated at her not cooperating with something — she’ll say she doesn’t like the way we’re behaving, or she’s not happy with us.
I know she’s just three, and a lot of this stuff is a given for the age. She and her friends will learn with practice how to be friends and play together. And yet it hurts my heart to hear her already talking about someone being mean to her, and I sure don’t want to hear from some other parent about how she’s been mean to their kid. And I want to be thoughtful and careful about how I parent in this age — I want her to feel secure and safe and understood with me (i.e. that I won’t be shocked or dismissive or jump too quickly into advice), and I want to help her learn friendship and social skills. I’m not so skilled in either area myself, which contributes to some anxiety.