There's a girl in the neighborhood (we'll call her Sally) who isn't nice to Frances. She's 5, an only child, and is somehow threatened by Frances's wanting to play with her. Some of the way she behaves is familiar to me--I'm an only child too and I can remember being singularily ungenerous--but it's so hard to watch. Sally tells Frances to her face that she doesn't want to play with her, yanks things out of her hands, is generally taunting and mean spirited. Her best friend (we'll call her Rose) lives next door and is a really sweet kid. She's 6 and has a 2-year-old brother, so is used to toddlers. But she's also just a nice child. When the two older girls play together they don't want Frances to join for obvious reasons, but Rose at least acknowledges Frances and talks to her like a person of value. She notices what Frances is wearing and asks her questions and interacts with her before going off with Sally, who is hanging around impatiently in the background waiting for the attention to return to her.
Most of this summer Frances didn't understand what this dynamic was. She didn't realize, I think, that Sally was being mean, didn't let it bother her one way or the other. Frances would look perplexed when it happened, then would go on playing whatever she was playing before. But now she's gotten a bit older, and now she understands. Today we were over there and I had stepped away on the lawn to look down the street for another neighbor when Frances came running and crying to me. When I asked her what was wrong she could only say "Sally..."--couldn't tell me any more. I asked, "Did she hurt you?" and Frances sort of nodded, sort of not, big tears in her eyes. I asked, "Did she hit you? Did she push you?" and Frances said no. So I asked, "Did she make you angry?" And Frances said, "Yes! Yes she did. She made me angry." Later, after more crummy interaction and general meanness, and after poor Frances told me she wanted to play with Rose and I had to explain that the girls had this special game (Polly Pockets for goodness sakes) that they were playing and Frances couldn't join, we walked home. On the way I said, "Sally is sometimes not very nice, isn't she?" Frances said, "No, she's not nice." I said, "Sometimes people are like that. You like Rose, though, don't you?" Frances said, "Rose nice. I like Rose." We talked about it a bit more and it hurt me that she's having to go through this though it's part of life and we all have to learn it. But one thing that struck me as interesting was that the thing Frances kept coming back to is how much she likes Rose, how nice Rose is. She didn't harp on the meanness of Sally or how her feelings were hurt. I hope this attitude stays with her. It certainly wouldn't do her any good to dwell on her anger or hurt feelings. Nothing accomplished by that.
So it hurt me for her. It also illustrated some new cognitive developments that are pretty fascinating. And it made me think about my role as a mother, and what kind of mother I am--I liked what I found.