I contacted Peanut's teacher yesterday about another child in her class. Something I never thought I'd have to do...tell her teacher that there's a girl who wants too badly to be Peanut's only friend.
I met this little girl at the Thanksgiving Feast last year. She was very sweet, don't get me wrong, but she seemed to cling a bit too much to Peanut. She was always making her cards and giving her little notes about being best friends. There was a neediness about this and I got a strange feeling about her. Nana picked up on it as well...and Mimi has also mentioned that she noticed it during her brief interaction at carpool on Tuesdays.
For months Peanut and this little girl had been asking for play dates together. Her first two play dates ended up being at Robert D's house. We finally had a play date at our house a couple of weekends ago.
IT WAS THE PLAY DATE FROM HELL!
The mom dropped her daughter off without even stepping inside the house...that one always gets me because I like to make sure I know the parents before leaving them in charge of Peanut...plus it's always nice to make a new mommy friend.
Within minutes of the play date the girls were bickering, the bickering led to tears...most of it was typical kid stuff, but neither girl could seem to wind down to focus on actually playing with eachother. Our townhouse is set up in a way that you can pretty much hear everything going on. I was reading in my room when I overheard a concerning conversation. Peanut must have had a dream about another classmate (I missed the first part of the conversation)...her friend was insanely jealous, and I'm not just being a drama queen about this. She started screaming a Peanut that she was going to not be her friend anymore if she kept dreaming about the other classmate (odd, right?)...and that she was no longer her best friend if she wasn't Peanut's only best friend. This also would normally sound like typical kid stuff (think "You're not coming to my birthday party!"). But the tone this child took with my daughter was actually threatening. I tried not to intervene because I had already done so when the bickering and crying got out of control. Peanut was trying to tell her that she was her friend, but she wanted to have more than one best friend.
"My mom says I'm allowed to have more than one best friend"
So she does listen to what I say!
We had had this conversation several times before in the car on the way home from school. She'd tell me about not being allowed to play with other friends on the playground because this little girl either tried to tell her she couldn't be friends with other girls or would cry and Peanut would cave in. She monopolizes my child. I'm glad we had the chance to talk about good friendship behavior...I want her to know that nobody gets to tell her who her friends can be. Nobody gets to talk about or treat her friends in an unkind way. And she can have more than one best friend.
Back to the play date from HELL. When Peanut told her about having more than one friend, the girl ended up getting angrier and storming downstairs. They were just not getting along so I took the girl home...early...didn't even give the mom a chance to come pick her up. I wanted this girl out of my house...and I never thought I'd say that about a child. I wish I could remember the exact conversation that she had that got me so wierded out. Just know that this is no exaggeration. It felt unhealthy, alarming and my intuition just took over.
We dropped the little girl off and the mom invited us in for a minute. I told her it was not a good play date and that there was quite a bit of bickering and crying. I got a "girls will be girls" response from her, so I didn't push the other topic.
This totally did not sit with me well. I was even more concerned when last Friday Peanut told me that she wanted to play with a different classmate at recess, but this girl started crying...and then a teacher intervened and told her she had to be nice to this girl. Not faulting the teacher, of course, she probably didn't know the whole picture. Peanut made it out like she got in trouble for not being nice to this girl...so I did need to check the facts.
I sent her teacher an email yesterday stating my concerns and asking for input...had she observed anything out of the ordinary? This teacher is very good at being aware of classroom relationships. She did reply to me last night and said she had noticed the behavior and had been working with the little girl. Apparently she has told the little girl that Peanut is still her friend even when she chooses to play with other friends. This little girl is "very sensitive". She mentioned that this was a good enough situation to warrant maybe putting the girls in separate classes next year...that way they can be more independent...but still play with each other when they want at recess.
And the mom in me is saying, "What a relief! I haven't overreacted. There is an issue, and it can be worked out."
I want my child to have good, healthy friendships. I never want her to be dependent upon her friends. To some extent I did this as a child...I recognize a bit of myself in that little girl...maybe that's why I picked up on it so easily. But I didn't act out in a possessive way. I internalized it and felt "left" by friends who went off to play with other kids. I didn't have the social skills to handle this. I was a sensitive child and the neediness started very young. It wasn't until high school that I felt part of a group of friends...found the joy in having many friends with common interests. It wasn't until the past 4 years that I started to chip away at the neediness, the pressure that I was putting on my relationships.
My daughter is almost 7 and she's on the right track to being a caring friend, an independent thinker, and a strong individual.
I'm 42 and have only recently learned how to be playground saavy.