The other day Amy and I went to the park. This park has a playground, a band shell, and some walking paths, and Amy had said she wanted to go for a walk before doing the playground. As we were walking by the playground, though, a little girl called out to Amy to come play with her and her little brother. Amy was uncertain at first but then was willing.
The little girl directed the play much like Amy tends to do — now this, now that, centering the script and action on herself. After a short time, Amy came over to me — I don’t remember the details, but the gist was that she wasn’t enjoying the play all that much, but agreed to stay a little longer. The other kids’ dad came over and apologized for his girl’s being “so social,” and I assured him that it was good for my little one to experience it from the other side, as she often does the same sort of thing.
They found their way into more mutually satisfying playing, now on the playground, now in the bandshell nearby, while the dad and I talked a bit (he’s a single dad, plays in some rock bands, his grandmother watches the kids a lot) and watched the kids. I’d brought my knitting, too.
Soon, they found two long (clean) floral ribbons, and played with those for a while, then decorated two bushes with them, moving on to other things, then later returned to them. The other girl went to move one of the ribbons — Amy cried out “No! you can’t!” or some such, and after a pause, the other girl burst into tears.
The dad tried redirecting, saying she wanted to go get some lunch — she cried and shook her head while he guided them along the path. Meanwhile, I’d caught up Amy and asked her if she knows why her friend is crying — she said it was because the girl wanted to move the ribbon and Amy didn’t want her to. At this point, the other family had come up the path to where we were, and I asked both girls if they wanted to try to solve the problem before the one girl left for lunch — she nodded.
I narrated what I’d seen and heard — “You wanted to move the ribbon, and Amy didn’t want you to; what can we do about this?”
They were both silent. “Do either of you have any ideas?” I asked again after a pause.
Then Amy enthusiastically said she had an idea — I forget whether it was to take turns with the ribbons or to have one ribbon for each girl — and the other girl accepted this solution. In fact, she came over to me and silently gave me a big hug. (I treasure that hug.) The dad said they could stay a little longer, and they were able to finish playing on a positive note.
It’s kind of surprising how two kids, who were at such a standstill before, with one stuck in crying and the other stuck in aggressive “No!” shouting, were able to come to a mutually agreeable solution with just a bit of supported listening and narrating. And how much more pleased they must have been, especially Amy, to have arrived at this (fairly obvious) solution instead of having it suggested or imposed by an adult.