Friday, September 25, 2009

I Have A Problem

I am flummoxed.

I have this feeling about a variety of things in my life.



Why I shop at Stupidstore.

But this latest flummoxation (yes, I'm using that word even though just laughed at me) is sending me over the deep end because it has to do with children. My children. I usually have some sort of an educated answer for child related issues, but I'm finding myself in the middle of a quagmire here.

The Princess has found some new friends. This friendship started last year but for whatever reason, it quickly blew off. I'll be honest. I was relieved. It's not a good friendship for her for a variety of reasons and it was a friendship I did not encourage.

The beginning of this summer changed all that. The doorbell started ringing, and despite my gut feelings, I allowed The Princess to play outside with this sister and brother. Supervised. I sometimes make up excuses as to why The Princess can't play but the doorbell ringing is constant. If we walk past their house, they run out and ask if The Princess can play. When we drive up and are getting out of the minivan, they're calling out from their window asking if The Princess can play. They've discovered each other at school and I'm getting reports that they are playing together at recess and lunch. Plus, The Princess doesn't want me outside supervising her all the time. She's 7 and a half. She wants some independence and I can't blame her for that. But it means I'm not out there supervising all the time.

But, I spent a good portion of my summer and this month of September sitting outside watching children. And telling children who weren't mine to please stop walking all over the neighbour's garden. Please go get the The Monkey's soccer ball that you just kicked down the road. I don't think the neighbour wants you kicking the ball repeatedly against their house. Please put on a helmet if you're going to take our scooters and ride them. Sorry, I can't supervise your friend's little sister as well. You're going to break The Monkey's trike if you keep doing that. Please don't do this, please do that instead.

And I'm the one that's called when the friend has fallen and scraped her knee.

I never see their parents.

There's more I could say about their family life, but what does it really matter?

Except it does. The Husband and I have been going back and forth about what to do with this situation. We don't want her playing with these two children, but at the same time wonder about our obligation to possibly be a positive influence with these kids. It's not like we think we're saints or anything, but these children need some help.

I find myself feeling like an idiot for being all uppity and looking down my nose at another family. I'm pretty sure there are many families on our block that look down their noses at me and my backyard and my old minivan parked outside. And I've worked with children who have had such a hard time making and keeping friendships....who am I to turn and say these neighbours can't play with my children?

But what about The Princess? In the middle of writing this, she's come into the house sobbing because of how the girl has treated her. I took her back outside to help solve the problem but all that was left was paint all over my walkway, paintings, toys strewn all over the lawn. And none of it was The Princess'.

We cleaned up the mess and brought all the toys and paints back to the neighbour's house. The Princess is confused and I don't know what to tell her except it's time to have a break from playing with her new friends.

Help. Am I being a paranoid self centred parent?

How have you balanced your own child's needs with the needs of another?

What would you do? What have you done?

I'd love to hear from all you other moms and dads out there.


Bullwinkle said...

First, let me say that I am 48 and (almost) totally over it ;)

I resented my mother for letting all the neighbor kids come hang out at our house and abuse us and our stuff and then just move on. We had no right to complain. No conflict resolution skills. No freedom to go elsewhere. We had to clean up their mess. Share our toys, our snacks, our time. (Mom called it sharing but it never went two ways. We didn't get to go 'their' house because we weren't "invited.")

We were tired, annoyed, frustrated. We (as children) knew it was wrong.

We learned about double standards: rules for us, rules for them.

One thing Mom did do was a rule that there was no hanging out in bedrooms. So eventually I figured out that I could hang out in my own bedroom - without them. I learned to stay after school and just not go home.

I haven't talked to Mom about it - I don't know if she had other ideas about helping out or if she had her own issues about not being able to say no. (She never sent them home at dinner - she invited them to stay.) In at least one case - there were serious parenting problems.

I grew up thinking Mom was a doormat. (Sad, but true.)

My sister would say that I don't get to weigh in on the bit about what I would do ;) (No kids. Its a joke between us because I've taken both of hers for summers.) I look to be sure the kids are making decisions that make them happy. Help them problem solve and do conflict resolution. Teach them to say things like "No, I don't want to because you'll leave a mess and I'll have to clean up." Look for some reciprocity.

I grew up confused, knowing that world was not fair and trying to figure out how to protect myself in it.

And hopefully this is the worst-case, most depressing comment you'll receive. :)

Hi! Don't remember how I found you but I've been reading for a week or so. I've chickened out of commenting once or twice - but I usually have more than enough to say when it comes to standing up for small people.

MahoneyMusings said...

Hey Bullwinkle! Glad you decided to chime it.

Not being a doormat is definitely something I worry about. That's one of the quandries I have in this whole situation. Plus, the Princess doesn't see that she's being treated poorly until things really blow up. So, yesterday's incident was probably a blessing in disguise. We did end up having a conversation about the friendship dynamics and I think she's starting to see things in a different light.

Thanks for sharing your insight.

And I'm still not over being 40. Are you telling me that it's going to be 8 years until I'm used this 40's business??

ProlificMom said...

Oh, yes. We have been on this side of the friendship quandry as well. My daughter spent many years coming home from school or church with hurt feelings caused by the same friend - her best friend. I was always there to give guidance, encouragement, love and mom taxi service to the friend despite the hurtful nature of the relationship. This went on from ages 10 to 14. Finally, I could not bear to see the hurt in my daughters eyes any more. I gave her permission to walk away from the friendship. I gave her guidance that its ok to be nice to the friend but to keep a distance and let her know that it's not ok to hurt others. I explained that some girls just don't yet understand that you can't be a serial emotional tyrant with your friends and expect them to stick by you. I also explained that her friend had some growing and development to do and that maybe some day she would be mature enough and ready again to be a true friend. She was from a divorced and twice blended family with different life circumstances than our own.

This separation also helped us make the decision about where our daughter would attend high school - not the same location with the friend.

Its hard to walk away from a friendship even when there is hurt involved but sometimes it is the very best thing you can do for both people involved. We now remember to pray for our estranged, now teenage, friend that she will grow and mature into a healthy stable young woman. We say hello and give hugs when we see her but we keep her only as an acquaintance. We have decided that that is the best thing we can do for both parties involved.

MahoneyMusings said...

@ Prolific Mom. Thanks for your thoughts. It's so difficult to know when to step in and say, "enough is enough". The Princess left for school today in tears today worrying about friendships and my heart just breaks for her.

Ellie said...

I really feel your pain with this, my oldest had a friend in earlier elementary school (about the princess' age) who was constantly getting into trouble, always wanting her to do things with her, giving her gifts all the time. I had to put my foot down after the child would call me up and argue with "ME" when I said B couldn't play. The girl had a rough upbringing, lived with her grandparents because her mom took off one day when she was high and her dad was in and out and not mature enough to raise a child. A small part of me felt sorry for this child but I had to think of my daughter first. When I get stopped at school because B did something wrong...well it was usually started by this other girl and B got caught in the middle. B understood when I told her she couldn't play with her anymore and she really wasn't that upset about it. I still see that girl riding around town by herself, unsupervised and on occasion she still tries to play but I've always put my foot down and had an excuse to send her on her way without my child.

Have you tried having a talk with the parents of these kids? Let them know about the messes they are leaving at your place and even show them instead of you cleaning up all the time. I know it's hard and we want to protect our children and their feelings, I suppose we can guide them to a certain degree but we can't always keep them on a tight leash, they need to experience life and be able to learn from their experiences. B understood though that once this child started getting her into trouble she didn't want to play with her anymore, I just needed to open her eyes to what was going on. You don't have to be friends with everyone!

Good Luck!

MahoneyMusings said...

"You don't have to be friends with everyone" is a very important life lesson, isn't it?

Mrs. Bick said...

Okay, so you've been peeking on our street!

This very scenario is sure to happen here at Chez Bick. Our street is chock full of kids, and there is one in particular I can see as being "THAT" kind of friend. You know the kind...

Your post is one I've thought much about, and am still working out how to handle. But to my thinking, putting limits on my children (aka boundaries) might help reduce the amount of influence that child has on mine, and thus reduce the potential hurt that could be inflicted on my three tender hearts.

And yet, I struggle with the notion that we might just be one of the only positive influences that consistently comes in contact with this child, and isn't it our Christian duty to show her a different way to live. ~sigh~

Thanks for writing your post. It has helped me know that I'm not alone in this struggle.

MahoneyMusings said...

It has been interesting to how this post has started so many conversations. It's like the proverbial elephant in the closet. Once I said it, I've had many people in real life and online want to talk about this issue.

Some things I am learning in all of this is that I can help my daughter see who is a good fit for her as a friend. I can support this and have been finding excuses as to why she can't play, etc when the certain child knocks on our door. But I am also continuing to engage in simple conversations and such with the child in question.