As we were driving to preschool the other day, N said to me, “Mom, I hope Melody is at school today.” I thought, what a nice, thoughtful thing to say. Then N continued, “Melody has been nice to me for TWO DAYS.” For emphasis, she held up two fingers.
Intrigued, I replied, “You mean, sometimes Melody isn’t nice to you?” N responded matter-of-factly, “Yes. Sometimes she’s not nice to me. Yesterday” (which in N’s world could mean one day last week) “she said she only wants Helena to sit next to her. She didn’t want anyone else to sit next to her.”
Here I was a little flummoxed. I didn’t expect to have to give social advice until N was in kindergarten, at least. In fact, I’ve been so busy worrying about all those news articles about teenagers cyber-bullying each other on Facebook that I kinda forgot that my daughter’s socialization process starts much earlier — like, now.
“Well, sweetie,” I began slowly, this being the first time I felt compelled to give wise-mom advice to address a school-friend “situation.” My hesitation stemmed in no small part from some pretty vivid memories of my school years, in which I was never very good at addressing “situations” myself.
“Sometimes kids can be a little cranky, and it’s best to leave them alone until they feel better. Maybe you could go find someone else to sit next to -?” Hearing no response, of course my next move was to turn around and say something really Mom-like: “Of course, honey, you’re so terrific, EVERYONE should want to sit next to YOU!”
N didn’t seem too bothered by this exchange (which means she basically ignored my wise-mom advice and accolades–but hey, she’s only three). After I dropped her off a few minutes later, I thought — are there books I should be reading on handling school “situations”?? Exactly how does a parent become qualified to give advice to a kid on social matters? Is there a training course one can take — maybe with a certificate at the end which pronounces the parent duly qualified in the State of New York to advise a child on how to constructively deal with all manner of awkward, hurtful and potentially humiliating experiences which lay ahead in school years pre-K to 12??
Okay, maybe I’m over-thinking it. After all, this “situation” was pretty simple and I feel my advice was okay. What’s more — I believe that there are just as many “growing pains” for parents as there are for kids, and I am confident that I’ll learn more over time and with experience.
I just wish I knew all the right answers to give her from the beginning.
Later, I spoke with N’s teacher, Ms. J, about N’s group of friends (which includes four girls — Melody, Helena, Nikki and N). Ms. J assured me that N does very well interacting with the other kids — N is definitely a “leader” in the class, as is Melody. N and Melody butt heads from time to time, but Ms. J says they usually work things out among themselves. Apparently they “fight” over the quiet-natured Helena and who will play with her. (I was so ignorant of the complex dynamics of preschool relationships!)
Also, it seems that the four girls also play “salon” a lot, in which they use the play kitchen to “wash” and “cut” each other’s hair, and give each other manicures and pedicures.
At this point, I began wondering if this was really MY daughter we were talking about –? Socially adept, confident — and plays SALON? (Trust me, one look at my school photos from the 80s during my “bangs” and “perm” phases and you would ask yourself the same question. My mom used to take me to a place called “Bushwhackers” to get my hair cut — enough said.)
I’m sure we’ll figure out how to get through the next 12–make that 13 1/2 — years of schoolgirl social woes, using one of the first lessons I learned as a mom: take it one step at a time. I may even swear off reading those scary news stories about cyberbullying on Facebook — at least until N and her classmates learn to read…!