My 5-year-old, Simon, is about to turn six. His mom has scheduled a birthday party for him and seven of his friends this Monday. My ex-wife, fiancee and I had all presumed that Simon will invite his brother and step-brother along with five of his friends from school.
Unforeseen to us, choosing just five friends has proven stressful for Simon. The first three or four seemed to come quickly to him. But what about that fifth…
Karin and I check his list. “You’re inviting Andre? Doesn’t he do kinda mean things?” “Well,” he reflects, “sometimes he has to change his card to yellow.” Making an observation, I say, “There’s only one girl on your list. Isn’t there another girl you’re always talking about? What about her?” “Oh yeah,” he says, “I’ll invite her instead.” With a little more waffling, he writes names on invitations for the five friends.
The next day, after school, the teacher emails me and says he can’t hand out invitations to five kids; it has to be the whole class or no one. Now, I get that we don’t want to actively hurt kids feelings. Do no harm and all that. And I’m sure Simon would feel a little hurt if he wasn’t invited to another kid’s party, but I’d use it as an opportunity to teach him that not everything is exactly the same for everyone. He might get to do something fun that the other kids in class won’t. That’s the way life is, and you can’t feel sorry for yourself over that kind of thing. Find happiness in the things you do get to partake in, etc. Right? OK. I digress.
Well, this morning, he decided to tell Lucas (his pseudo-step-brother) that he wasn’t invited to his party because he didn’t want him there. (Hrm?!) Karin and I discussed it and posited that it’s out of competition. Since my post called Zen and the Art of Step-Parenting, I’ve been trying to feel my way into being Lucas’s step-dad/primary male caregiver, especially lately.
Not coincidentally, then, last night as I was giving Lucas “extreme cuddles!” at bedtime, and Simon was noticeably jealous. So combined with the anxiety of choosing exactly the right friends to invite (what is the process involved for a 5-year-old?, I wonder), Simon figured he’d eliminate the competition.
We’ve also hypothesized that there is a direct correlation between our acting disappointed or angry with them and their sabotaging each other in an attempt to get in our good graces. This is the opposite of what parents intend when they show disappointment with their children. Rather than improving their own behavior, they’ve resorted to egging on the other kid to see if they can get them into trouble. Argh. So we’re working on being more positive more often, appreciating them for “being good” and removing the emotion from discipline.
Day by day.
Parenting (and conjecturing) from the bungalow,
P.S. I’d love to hear about the ways you parent! Comments? And if you enjoy my blog, please join me in the discussion on Facebook!