Playing with the big boys

We get to Kidspace early, right as it opens and Zoe wants to know if any of "our friends are here". I tell her "I don't think so, but maybe we can make some new friends". She nods, thinking about this, "I can ask them their name and they can ask me my name!".

"That's right, that's a good way to meet new friends, Zoe." I say.

She races straight for the "big girl bikes", the ones that you ride around a track, the ones she was too little, too unskilled to ride on the last time we came. I read her the rules and make her repeat them to be sure they sunk in.

At first, she is the only one on the track. She jumps on a bike and starts pumping her legs, sticking out her tongue in concentration as she follows the arrows chalked on the ground to show her which way to go.
Soon, she is joined by two bigger boys, maybe 6 and 8. She is mesmerized, smiling at them when they get near, murmuring "My name is Zoe" when she crosses paths with the older one, trying to show off by going as fast as she can when she's near the younger one. Watching their every move causes her to run off the track and go the wrong way several times. They wizz around her, yelling "TOO SLOW little girl!".

She comes in to park her bike and says, teary and deflated, "Momma? They went off the track to pass me. They didn't tell me their names."

I pull her into a silent, helpless hug that she quickly wriggles out of.

Later, we move to the "construction zone" where the same two boys are rushing around building a big house out of large striped blocks, barking orders at one another. Zoe stands at the edge and says, too softly to be heard, "Guys? Can I build too?".

They don't respond.

She looks at me, sad eyed, and I say, just as desperate for her inclusion, "I don't think they heard you. Go ahead, Boo. Put a block on."

She tentatively picks up a block and puts it on top of a wall. The older boy frowns and says derisively ,"No. Not there." and takes it off.

She comes to me and whimpers, "He said no. I wanna build too."

The mom next to me hears this and calls out "Boys, let the little girl play too." and they glance at Zoe, apparently appraising her building skills.

"She can decorate when we're finished."

"Everyone can build and everyone can decorate, DAMMIT." my inner feminist silently roars in my head as I watch my daughter trying to find a way in with the big boys.

She watches awhile longer and sees that they are putting the triangular pieces on top. She picks one up and places it next to another, carefully lining up the stripes. The boy closest to her says "that's right." and places another next to hers.

Her entire being smiles and she skips around finding more triangular blocks, pausing to proudly inform me, "I'm building!".

The older boy mumbles from the other side of the house, "you're decorating".

Her radiant, jubilant face, her sideways glance at the boys looking for approval, her skipping step: the whole scene KILLS me.

I am struck by how little I can actually do to help her navigate the confusing world of playgrounds and friendships and "big kids".

Later, on our way home to a much needed naptime for all of us, she says sleepily, "I'm gonna tell Daddy about how I helped build a house with the big boys."

"Yes you did, Boo. You sure did."


Astarte said...

Oh, I am SO SORRY that that happened. I think this is one of the hardest things I've come across as a parent - having other children be (mean) to my kids. There's not a lot you can do when they're just being kids, really, because kids *don't* always want to play with younger kids. Watching your babies deal with that kind of situation is horrid. I have stepped in before and spoken to the other kids, and most of the time they've had the good sense to be at least somewhat abashed, but other times they've just been rude. Where the H were these kids' parents, anyway?! If I every caught my kids doing that kind of thing, man, they would get the talking to of their lives, and have to apologize to the kid AND the parent. Sigh. At least she's young enough now that she was still happy at the end of the day, and was willing to accept whatever they let her do. *sniff*

Hillary said...

Oh that last, "You're decorating," just killed me. Sounds like you're raising a resilient little girl, though.

Kathleen said...

I am BAWLING here on the couch. Your pain, and Zoe's pain just killed me! That is some rough stuff. You are a CHAMP for not roaring at those boys.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Oh no. Go Zoe for hanging in there! I haven't faced that yet. That is so hard. The sad thing is, kids have to deal with kids and PARENTS. Mira just went to her first drop off gym class. I stayed and watched and was so proud of her. Then as we were leaving I heard a parent tell the coach that they thought Mira shouldn't be in the class because she took too long and her kid had to wait. GRR. That awoke my mama bear BIG time! I have been stewing about it for a week. Sigh...

Mrs. Chicken said...

We had a similar situation at a playground here on Friday afternoon. It kills me. Our girls, they are so fresh and innocent. It wounds me so deeply to know there are many, many more dismissive boys in their futures.

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