Last week, we invited one of Baby J’s friends from gan over to our house for a playdate on Shabbat afternoon. It was a great idea as the girls play really nicely together, they live close by, and I’m friends with the Mommy. I was really looking forward to our get together, especially since I knew that Baby J. would be excited about having a friend to play with. Typically though, we would try to take Baby J. out to the park on Shabbat afternoon, especially now that the days are getting much longer, but with the cold and rainy weather the park hasn’t been an option for a number of weeks.
Sure enough, when Baby J. saw her friend at the front door, she squealed with delight and the two girls went off to play. I decided to set her little table with snacks for the two and put out two bowls with some clementine, potato sticks and a cookie each. The girls also each got their own sippy cups as well. Baby J. sat down in her red chair while her friend chose the white chair next to her. As toddlers are wont to do, they didn’t stay at the table long, and basically picked at the snack and then were off to the next toy to play with.
For the most part, the play date went well. There were a couple of flare ups, which is to be expected when a favorite toy is coveted by another child, but the Mommies were available to intercede and help the girls come to terms with how to share the toys.
I had read up on play dates a couple of months ago and remembered the importance of letting the host child know that, while these toys are definitely still hers, it is okay to let her friend play with them for a bit. The friend is not going to leave with her toys and that it’s okay to share. I felt pretty proud of myself when I talked Baby J. into letting her friend either sit in her favorite rocking dog or play with one of her favorite balls.
The Mommy and I were able to really chat, which is so nice and rare for me these days. And, with DH hidden behind the bedroom door so we could have some “girl time,” I was feeling really good about the play date.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I see that Baby J. is sitting down in the white chair at the table. Her friend saw that too and quickly ran over to claim her chair at the table. The pushing and shoving began and I watched for merely a second until I decided to say something. I didn’t want the girls to hurt each other over a chair, but I was also curious to see how the shoving match would play out.
Sure enough, as soon as I called out, Baby J. moved aside so her friend could slide into the seat. She started crying with frustration and I explained that her plate of food was next to her red chair. I asked if she wanted to sit in her red chair since her friend was sitting in the white chair and, tearfully, she went back to her place and they resumed their snacks.
It was such a minor incident in the play date, and yet I can’t stop thinking about how it all played out. While I do not condone hitting, pushing, shoving, biting, etc., I wondered who would have won that wrestling match had I not said something? Did Baby J. give up simply because she heard my voice or did she give up because the other girl over powered her? If I’m using this incident as a base line, does this mean that my child is going to be a push over? Is she always going to be the one crying in frustrating on the side because a more dominant child took away her toy, pushed her aside to get to the water fountain, shoved her out of the way to take a seat at the table, etc.?
I mentioned my thoughts to DH last night and he immediately blamed my upbringing. I grew up in a home with a Father whose motto was always: “fight back.” It was awfully confusing as a child, as my Mother would tell us that if we don’t like something another child was doing, we should simply tell the teacher/parent/care giver instead of hitting. My Father, however, had a different agenda. He didn’t believe in raising “wussies” for kids and we were instructed that, should another child hit us first, we had the right to hit them back (and were encouraged to do so!). If we instead ran crying to the teacher, we were weak, and would be perceived as weak by the other kids and we would be destined to be bullied forever. (Side note, my Father was born in Israel, my Mother born in America.)
Sigh. So, here I am as a Mother, torn between wanting my child to be able to stick up for herself but certainly not wanting her to resort to violence to get what she wants. DH pointed out that our daughter has definitely held on to toys when kids tried to take them away from her, and I’ve witnessed it myself while we were at gan a couple of times. She definitely knows how to hang on to what she is already playing with, but is that enough? I’m not there during the days so I don’t know, is she the child running to the gannenet crying every time another child takes something away from her?
Now add to all this the fact that we live in Israel, where children are bred for lives in the Army, and weakness is not tolerated while dominance is valued. I’m not ready for her to go out for Golani before she’s toilet trained, but I need to make sure she has the necessary tools to interact with Israeli children, in Israeli society, with Israeli culture and the rules that go with all of that. Is it a detriment to her that I’m an American Mother, bringing my American values into our home, trying to raise her as I would living in the States?
So that’s my Mommy dilemma for the day. Have you noticed how your child interacts with other children? Is your toddler the kid who pushes and shoves their way to what they want, or is she/he the one left crying in frustration on the side? Comment below!