Friday, March 28, 2008

Popular

Amy told me yesterday about a conversation she had with Hilary, in which Hilary said she had to eat lunch at school by herself while her best friend Catherine was out of town; apparently none of the other kids wanted to sit with Hilary. (At least, this is what Amy thinks Hilary said. Hilary doesn't always make a lot of sense. She might have actually told Amy that she was leaving town shortly to visit Schmernia.)

But whether she said it or not, it makes me sad. It always makes me sad to see the kids slighted in any way, even if they're not aware of it. I remember a trip to Sesame Place when Erika was 2. She was playing in the sprinklers, chasing after some older kids. The kids, of course, wanted nothing to do with the pale, chubby child in a too-small bathing suit (some things never change) who followed their every move, and I just remember watching Erika, a longing look on her face, as the kids climbed and played in ways that her toddler body couldn't yet accomplish.

Now, as I watch Declan interact with other kids, I wonder how much, if any, I should intervene. I've written before about his slightings at the hands of his cousins and other children. Yesterday it happened again, on a playground outside his art class. Two of the kids in the same class, both probably 6 months or so older than Declan, were playing together and adamantly refused to let Declan join them. But they also didn't want him playing on any of the equipment that they deemed "theirs." I didn't interfere when Declan stared up at the climbing structure the other kids had called their "special clubhouse," and didn't get up from my bench when I saw Declan underneath the double slide the kids had commandeered. But when Declan came over and told me that the other kids had told him he couldn't use the slide, I had to intervene.

The kids were brats, and fought me on every front (all while their mothers ignored the situation nearby), but Declan got to use the slide and the climbing structure and even managed to avoid being struck by the wood chips the other kids threatened to throw at him. But I couldn't help but wonder what would happen next time, when I wasn't around.

The fact is, I always just assumed that Declan and Ronan would be well-liked and, well, popular. I'm not sure where I got this idea from--I was certainly not a popular child, though of course I had my friends. But with their easy-going natures and outgoing personalities--not to mention their dashing good looks--I thought they would have it made.

Kids are so fickle, however, and the fact is that Declan and Ronan could just as easily be outcast as popular. It makes me so sad to think about, because unlike now, when their young minds can't really grasp the idea of being excluded (even Hilary, at almost 5, didn't seem too upset that she had to eat lunch alone, certainly not as upset as Amy and I were), when the kids grow up and form their cliques and groups, they will know when they're being insulted or excluded or ridiculed. And as sad as it may make them, it makes me even sadder.

Until then, I'll just keep my Mommy radar on high alert. I know of a couple of kids who just might have an "accident" on the playground outside art class next week...

3 comments:

Doesn't love a wall said...

It's funny isn't it - how that stuff REALLY angers us? I worry about it with my daughter. I mean, girls are So EVIL!

I think you did the right thing!

Keri said...

I think you're right about girls... With boys, everything is straightforward: they yell, wrestle, fight, hit, etc. With girls, they're so catty. I see this with Erika's friends and it scares me that I'm having a girl of my own now! I'm just getting used to the boys!

Manjari said...

When I was pregnant with my twins, my husband came home one day to find me sitting on the stairs, crying. When he asked me what was wrong, I wailed that I didn't want anyone to ever hurt their feelings (yeah, pregnancy hormones made me a little dramatic). Now they are one and a half. When we're at the playground, my son always wants to play with the older boys. They don't want to have anything to do with him, and that just about breaks my heart.