Yesterday, Husband and I took a short walk with Maile, and then stopped by her new favorite place -- the playground! She played for a bit with a boy just a month older than she, and his 4 year-old brother ... who, if I'm being honest, was a bit much for her ... This kid loved to give hugs.
Soon, we heard the chimes, buses vrooming, parents talking, kids squealing with happiness, as the K-8 school in our neighborhood let out for the day. The small playground close to the school quickly started to fill up, and we were really enjoying seeing the "older" kids interact with Maile, and she with them, until it happened: The Playground Bossy.
I won't call her a bully, because she didn't push or shove or get physical, but she made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with Maile. Of course, Bossy was playing with three other little girls (I'm guessing all were about kindergarten age) who were very much enjoying Baby Girl being around them.
It all started when Husband, Baby Girl and I were sitting at the child-size table under the playground, and Bossy asked us to move. She wasn't altogether polite about it, but we figured she was just being a kid, so "Of course!" we said, and got our grownup butts out of there. Maile stayed behind, kicking her feet and leaning over the little table, just enamored with the big girls around her.
Then, it came out -- the special toy. Just a small, pink plastic frog that "jumped" when you pressed it hard enough. Probably something out of a Pizza Hut coin machine. But the little girls filled the table, ready to take turns making the frog jump. Bossy, clearly ... well ... the boss: "First I'll go, then you, then you, then you." Little Girl: "What about her?" nodding to Maile. Bossy: "No. I hate baby drool. I don't want her putting it in her mouth. She can't play."
To Bossy, that was clearly the end of the conversation, though the same little girl muttered, "She's cute, and I think she can play too."
Life altering? No. But definitely not nice.
As Husband and I were watching this scene unfold, we raised our eyebrows a bit at each other, but we did just that -- let it unfold. In hindsight, the mama bear part of me wishes I would've told Bossy that, in fact, though Maile is small, she loves to play with big girls because she wants to be like them, and that the odds of Maile putting a non-food item in her mouth were slim to none. But I didn't. I just watched.
Maile hovered much too closely for Bossy's liking, so she ordered her little gang over to the swings. To my great surprise though, only one followed. Two (twins, whom Maile played with a few weeks ago) stayed with Maile, guiding her to the slide. Showing her how to climb up the ladder. Holding out their hands for her. Letting her "talk" to them (and talking back). And being ever so patient as she tried to climb back up the slide after each time she slid down. Not once did the girls say "No" or "You're doing it wrong" or "Get out of my way." I may not be their mama, but I am proud of them.
I know the reasons kids boss vary. Maybe Bossy is imitating a parent or an older sibling. Maybe she has a younger sibling at home, and isn't getting enough attention.
But here's my question: How do you protect your child, when she doesn't know yet herself that what's going on is intended to leave her out, or make her feel bad? She may face real bullying at some point, and I want her ready to deal with it if she has to.
I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, or ways you protect your child from bullying ... Whether it's at daycare, preschool, or on the playground. If you think I'm being an oversensitive mama bear, I want to hear that too!