There comes a time when it is no longer acceptable to protect your child from life’s reality. What does that mean? No, it doesn’t mean that you should be brutal or age inappropriate. It does mean that the time has arrived to stop smoothing edges, stop keeping the hard things from touching them, and get into the frame of mind to respond to the difficult questions.
Melissa, not her real name, is four years older than the girls. She has always been nice to them. Indeed, she has played with them several times for extended periods of time. However, she is just not into them. Honestly, it is to be
expected given the four-year difference. They are in completely different places in childhood. My daughters do not understand this difference. All that matters to my girls is that Melissa is the only other girl that lives on our block. They ask to play with her every time they see her.
It broke my heart, but I knew that they were now old enough to hear the dreaded words, “She doesn’t want to play with you.” Baby A looked up at me, her large brown eyes wide with shock, and said, “Doesn’t she like us?” I spent the next hour explaining that Melissa liked them, but she was too old to play the same games they played. Baby B stubbornly said, “She is our friend.” The gig was up!
There was no easy way to say what I knew I needed to say, so I swallowed hard and very matter of fact said, “She is not your friend.” I emphasized the word friend. My girls had the look of a puppy accidentally kicked by its owner! It was heart wrenching. Still, I held my ground, and asked them how friends acted. They listed all of the appropriate attributes. Baby B said with a shrug, “Yeah, she is not our friend.” Baby A looked heartbroken but nodded.
This incident may not seem like a big deal to many, but it was because for the first time ever, my girls realized that not everyone is their friend. More importantly, they understood that not everyone is interested in being their friend. It doesn’t mean they are not worthy or that they should do something to change the situation. It just is.