Special flowers and mama bears
We have good friends who have a 3.5 year old. We were friends before babies, then they went to baby land, we went to baby land, and now we’re coming out of it, they’re out of it, and all their friends that were in baby land with them are on baby 2 so back in baby land. This has provided a great opportunity for us to reconnect a bit which is really nice.
The problem is that their 3.5 year old (C) does not like Gus. I don’t know what goes on in C’s mind so maybe it’s that he doesn’t like the shared attention (likely) but it’s a problem. We’ve hung out a few times in recent months and he’ll yell at Gus, hit Gus, and one time picked up both of his feet while sitting in a chair and kicked Gus in the chest. It’s happened and their house and our house and things are normally best if we are in a neutral space and C is getting lots of attention.
Yesterday C’s parents had a potluck with lots of families and we went. We went early as we couldn’t stay long (Lesley had hockey) and there weren’t many families there when we were there. C was playing with another little boy and there was a little girl and her baby brother. The boy C was playing with was meaner than C. Gus was not allowed in any room they were in. Gus had a balloon and they would walk up to him and hit it out of his hands. They would come from another room to where we were, get down to Gus’ level, and yell in his face, “NO! Go away baby!” The parents of the little girl noticed this too and were super sympathetic but the parents of both boys were busy other places. After a few rounds of this Lesley picked Gus up and simply said, “We’re leaving”. I grabbed our stuff and we slipped out the back door.
When we got to the car I strapped Gus in and got in the front seat to find Lesley crying. Admittedly, she was a bit extra hormonal but it really is so hard to watch. Gus loves other kids. He just wants to play with them and follow them around. And to watch other kids treat him poorly, especially to yell at him which is something he doesn’t understand, hurts. It hurts a lot.
As these things have come up our friends have handled them appropriately. I’ve asked about ways to deal with this on facebook mom groups and have basically heard that if our friends deal with it appropriately that’s the best we can hope for and that this is kid stuff and will work itself out. It’s great that our friends deal with it but in the meantime I don’t feel super safe having my kid there. Gus isn’t learning how to play with other kids through these interactions, he’s being hit and yelled at. And while I agree this is kid stuff, I think it’s different when there is an age gap and Gus is so young.
Lesley attributes this to the parenting phenomenon she calls “special flower”. We agree with gentle parenting so much but she wonders if validating feelings and talking through things is at times not enough and not helping kids. All kids learn they are special flowers and fail to see the whole garden. C is great at identifying his feelings but still thinks he has the right to use his body against another child. We very much understand C is three. This is normal three year old behavior. He’s a good kid and we care about him so much. But as we watch this happen we start to wonder how we can do things differently. How we can be gentle parents but also set boundaries and have consequences.
After leaving there we went to the hockey rink. Parents there are (for the most part) not parents of special flowers. And there kids are nice and loving to Gus. A four year old followed him around and hugged him. A 2.5 year old we see there often shows him all her things and doesn’t get overwhelmingly upset when he takes them. These are kids who have time out and told to stop crying and all of the things we are so against. Yet these are the kids who are nice to my kid.
I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think we can know the right way to set consequences until we know what motivates Gus. At this point there is little need for it. Sometimes a toy (and by toy I mean the broom) gets taken away or we leave a place because he’s freaking out or something of that sort but he’s young to be fully understanding what that means – it’s just stuff we need to do. This whole parenting thing is all a guess – we do what we think is best and see what happens. But what happens when what we fully believe is best is playing out in front of it and from the other side it doesn’t look so good?