Last weekend, I took the girls to the park while T was off at the gym. It was a beautiful sunny day, and they were delighted to be there. We saw one of Miss M's friends from school, and I thought "oh great--now she has someone to run around with." But that's not what happened.
The girl was with her older sister, and they were with two other friends, who looked to be just a bit older. The four of them were skulking around the playground like teenagers (the oldest was probably all of 8 or 9), not actually playing on anything, and acting too cool for school. I was chasing after SB, but noticed within seconds that Miss M, after a brief initial interaction with the girls, was no longer with them. I turned to see her sitting dejectedly on a stone wall.
"What's wrong, sweetie?" I asked. Her shoulders slumped forward, and she didn't meet my eyes. "Anna doesn't want to play with me." It turned out that the other girls had rejected her. They didn't want her around. She was devastated. I tried to distract her, to no avail. She wanted to play with her classmate and friend, and couldn't be dissuaded. She approached the girls several more times, only to be rejected again and again, quite meanly in fact.
This classmate is all of 5 years old. Her older sister is 7.
Miss M wanted me to make them apologize to her for hurting her feelings, and to make them play with her. I explained as kindly as I could that I couldn't make them do anything, and that sometimes people are just unkind. We talked a bit about how bad this makes you feel, and how this is the reason we are always careful to be kind to others. . .because it feels bad to be treated this way, and we don't want to make anyone feel this way.
Ultimately, I could see that no matter what I said, it was eating her up, so we left the park. Mercifully, just after leaving, we ran into another friend who has two girls of her own, the same ages as my girls. They were headed for a playdate with new friends. We went back to the park with them, and Miss M and SB ran around with these two other girls and a bunch of new friends. I could see Anna and her sister looking enviously at the group. Soon and much to my relief, they left the park. The day ended well for us, with Miss M having a blast.
T had been telling me for days that he thought Anna and her sister are mean girls. He'd seen them do unkind things during drop off and pick up, and at a birthday party they'd all recently attended together. I honestly didn't believe he was right. They are 5 and 7. How could they possibly already exhibit that kind of behavior? And yet, they did and they do. I think that they do not have the nicest home life. I get the sense that there is discord between the parents. The mother talks about her husband in a really angry way, which makes me suspect there is a lot of strife in the household. I attended an event with them a few months ago, and was surprised by the rancor between them.
But still, I just didn't think it started this young, and it makes me so sad for them, and for Miss M. She's only 4 years old, and I am a bit at a loss that I already need to start preparing her for cruelty. Whatever happened to the innocence of childhood?