Childrearing

Watching Your Child Try To Make Friends Is The Most Cringe-Inducing Part Of Parenting

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making friendsThe man beside me actually laughed at loud. While I still think he’s a jerk for giggling at my daughter’s misfortune, I was smirking just a bit in my head as well. Sneaking Cat is a superhero my daughter has created. We tell the stories of Sneaking Cat and have even drawn pictures of her adventures. I happen to think that the idea is pretty cool.

But not a single kid on that playground knew what my daughter was talking about. I could see how the kids would have been confused and dismissive of a little girl rambling on about something they didn’t know. “I’m sorry to hear that hun. Did you want to try playing something else? Maybe you’ll like what they’re playing?” I offered. This is when I learned the real problem of my daughter’s visit to the park. “No,” she told me, “They said I could play with them. But I told them that they had to be the bad guys and I was going to be the Sneaking Cat and put them in jail.”

It was all coming together. My daughter hadn’t just suggested a game the other kids didn’t know, she had told them exactly how they were to play it. She wasn’t looking for friends to play with, she was finding actors for her own movie in her head. No wonder the other little kids decided to run off and swing instead. My daughter was being bossy. Bossy doesn’t always win friends over.

I pointed out that sometimes friends have to give and take, have to compromise and play what everyone wants to play. My daughter wasn’t in the mood to hear it at the moment. “But I want to play Sneaking Cat,” she told me. At first, I was a little worried that this was going to become a serious issue.

Then, the next time we went to the park, I watched my daughter walk up to a group of girls and just ask what they were playing, if she could join. Of course, the little girls said, “Yes.” We had a nice trip to the park. And as I sat on the bench and watched my daughter play, I realized that those kids turning her down did more to teach her about compromise than I ever could. Social knowledge can’t really be lectured in to children, they just have to spend time together and figure it out.

We want to protect our children, and that includes making sure that no one is ever hurting their feelings. We want them to have friends and feel like they belong. We want all the things that we were striving for ourselves when we were in school. Unfortunately, social issues are something that individuals have to work through. Social hierarchies will happen without any input from the parents. Friendships will be made without any regard for the adults’ opinions. All we can do is sit back on that bench, hope things turn out for the best and maybe give a hug when things go wrong. Oh, and we can tell off the jerk at the park laughing at sad little kids. That’s still on my to-do list.

(Photo: Rob Hainer/Shutterstock)

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