When my daughter Ingrid started kindergarten this September, she took an instant liking to another little girl, Jackie. We like Jackie’s family well enough and think Jackie is mostly a sweet girl, but we feel she is very different from our little one and this concerns us. Our daughter, Ingrid, is an only child in other words, she has the constant attention and guidance of two adults! — and she is the queen of enrichment classes, such as ballet, French, and experimental art classes. Ingrid’s ability to focus is excellent. She has been reading since she was four. She loves museums and sports. She is a quietly happy kid.
In contrast, Jackie has an older sister who babies her ??? so, she is a bit immature for her age — and she has been raised on a steady diet of DVDs and princess gear. We think she is a loyal friend to our daughter, but she is also very possessive, having gone as far as telling Ingrid that she can’t say hello to any other kids, or they won’t be best friends anymore.
And I’ve got a parallel universe thing happening with Jackie’s mother. She’s hard to deal with and not my first choice of moms to socialize with. For whatever reason, she’s not so popular with the other parents, so she is always clinging to me, and cornering me during morning drop off. Like her daughter’s behavior with Ingrid, Jackie’s mom acts possessive towards me, and she clearly feels slighted when I talk to other moms whose company, frankly, I prefer. We were once late to a playdate with Jackie, and her mother blew a gasket. I just can’t operate on this level!
How can I tactfully distance my daughter from Jackie, or should I? How can I keep her mother at arm’s length but also keep the peace on the playground?
Thanks for your help!
Carina S, Newport Beach
|Melissa says, "Thanks for the great question. I am sure many parents are in the same situation. First off, I must say, welcome to the world of elementary school. It is a constant obstacle course that we must learn to effectively navigate.|
I am going to answer this question from my expert opinion as well as first hand knowledge, as my two girls have already passed through kindergarten and I feel I can answer objectively.
Every child is different, whether they are an only child or one of four. As much as we would like to find clones of our children to make their journey through school easier, we cannot. Some children are girly and love princessy things and DVDs, while some like to read quietly and enjoy the more mature things, such as French and museums. Your daughter is obviously mature for her age in some respects, while Jackie is enjoying being a little sister. My youngest is more like Jackie, while my oldest is more like Ingrid. I love them both the same. Naturally, you are going to compare and as Ingrid’s mother, you are going to be more partial to your daughter’s tastes. This does not mean that anything is wrong with Jackie and her desire to do the things she loves.
Fortunately, all of the children in your daughter’s grade are different and perhaps these differences are what brought your daughter and Jackie together. After all, opposites attract. Best friends get possessive. If I had a quarter for every time my daughters’ friends told them, "You can’t be friends or talk to so and so," I would be a wealthy woman. What a great opportunity you have to instill some principles into both of these girls. Talk with your daughter and teach her how to respond simply to this. Help her to understand that neither she nor Jackie should ever use these threats. If you daughter sets a good example, Jackie will hopefully follow. And let’s not forget, she has an older sister who she may hear these things from. Tell your daughter to say, "It’s not nice to say that and it is good to include other people when we play." Giving a child the confidence to stick up to others is priceless.
Teach Ingrid that if Jackie keeps saying it that she should stick up for herself and say, "If you say that again, we are not going to play together anymore." They were obviously drawn together for a reason and I wouldn’t decide for her with whom she can and cannot play at school, unless they are an extremely bad influence (it doesn’t seem like Jackie is that. She is a little girl trying to be assertive). Help Ingrid learn how to decide with whom she does and does not want to play.
In addition, talk to their teacher. Teachers have wonderful suggestions and will often discuss a principle with the children in class. Perhaps, she will talk to the class about why it is not nice to say, "I won’t be your friend anymore." Teachers have a way with these things so it wouldn’t hurt to get her involved.
As for Jackie’s mother, she may not be your first choice of moms to socialize with, but no one is saying you have to be buddy-buddy with her. Your children are friends and that can be the extent of the relationship. Of course, you want to be kind and gracious, but don’t feel obligated to fall into her snare of possessiveness. Be friendly, be yourself and be natural, but keep an arms length. Jackie and Ingrid spend a lot of time at school together — in class, at recess, at lunch, so you don’t have to go overboard with the playdates.
As you haven’t had a child go through kindergarten yet, you may not realize how quickly this relationship may change. Anyone who has already had a child go through kindergarten will tell you that your child usually sticks like glue to one other child during the year. Once first grade comes, especially if they are not in class together, the relationship tends to change and new friendships are formed. By second grade, the kids have a myriad of different friends with different personalities. Relationships at the early elementary level are like the tide — they ebb and flow.
For now, be kind at drop-off to Jackie’s mom and perhaps you should make other playdates for your daughter. She will then feel that she has other kids to play with at lunch, if she so chooses, and don’t forget when year end arrives, you can request that the girls not be in class together next year. This may help your daughter expand her friendships with others and keep you out of the awkward grasp of Jackie’s mother.