Today at the park

Amy and I met friends at the park today for a couple hours in the morning.

Dear Amy has a tendency to pester her friends when she feels anxious — she doesn’t want them to leave her side, and she wants to command all aspects of play. The more threatened she seems to feel, the more she pesters — “___, come here! Watch me! Play with me! Do this! Let’s [X]!” — repeatedly, without much of a break for the friend to respond, and without really looking to see, hear, understand, and respect the response. (I understand and sympathize.)

A few times I reminded her to sometimes ask what her friend might want to do, to say please, to listen to her friend, and so on.

At one point it was clear that the friend needed some space and was trying to tell Amy so. When the friend was about to give in to Amy’s whining, I encouraged the friend to stick with her “no.” I sat with Amy for a bit, and reminded her that she has also had times when she wants to play by herself or have some space, and that it’s okay to let a friend do the same, and that her friend still likes her and will find her when she’s ready to play again. I told her I understood that she was sad about it.

I’m pretty sure they played separately for a while; not much later we saw them together again, happily absorbed in their play.

When it was time to go, after some advance warning, Amy ran away from the car and I started toward it without looking at her. Pretty soon she did turn and start toward me, so I turned toward her with a smile and waited for her. It still surprises me when this strategy works.

So — even though the time at the park had some distress for Amy, she got through it okay, and maybe made a baby step in social skills, that it’s okay to give a friend space when she needs it. I hope Amy’s friend had a similar blessing, that it’s okay to stand up for herself when a friend is annoying or upsetting or pushing her. I was really pleased to see that the two friends reconnected — reinforcing the idea that friends can disagree, feel hurt, need space, and come together again.

(And by the end of it, Amy apparently still felt enough of a secure connection with me to pretty quickly follow me to the car.)


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