The Kewl girls and I met some friends at the park today. Our friends are a lot like us - half hippies - because we're not quite normal and not quite feral! We are also both one parent families, home schoolers and advocates for "person first" thinking and living. Particularly relevant to this story is one other commonality... We are both big believers in the power of thought (part law of attraction, part positive thinking, part create your own reality, etc). These beliefs, I think, translate not just to a way of thinking, but more importantly, to a way of living. They also influence the way I parent and the thoughts, both conscious and otherwise, that I try to encourage in my girls.

Today at the park, the Kewl girls and their half hippie friends were playing with a ball and their half hippie mum and I were sitting on a bench not too far away. Another child, about 4 or 5, came over and joined in the ball game. Almost instantly it became obvious that this child did not have fabulous social skills. She did not quite grasp the concept of it being a group game, of passing the ball to others, of taking turns, or of anything much that would make our group of half hippie children want to continue playing with her. Sadly, after no more than 5 minutes, Miss J made an executive decision and said to the other child, "We feel annoyed when you keep hogging the ball because we all want a turn too and you won't share, so we don't want to play with you anymore."
Miss J then went and picked up the ball and began to walk away.

Now, I had been watching this scenario unfold and was tossing up whether I should intervene or not...
Did I need to encourage Miss J to share the ball and not exclude the child who was not part of 'her' group just because she wasn't behaving the way Miss J wanted her to?
On the other hand, Miss J had communicated very clearly why she did not want to play anymore and she had an excellent point - the other child was not sharing at all. Was it right to tell Miss J to share when the other child clearly was not?

I had pretty much decided to let it go for now and in 5 minutes or so, suggest to Miss J that she ask the other girl if she wanted to join in again.
Then the other girl ran up behind Miss J and shoved her in the back. Hard.

Uh oh.

As I was still making my way over, the other girl's mum arrived on the scene. She smacked her child on the hand and told her she was naughty for pushing Miss J over. Then when the child argued that Miss J wasn't playing with her or sharing her ball, her mum said to Miss J, "Well, you should share your toys, you know."
Miss J replied, "But I don't want to."
To which the other mum said, "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do. It's called the real world, honey."
Immediately, Miss J responded with, "The real world is for people who can't imagine anything better." Then she picked up her ball and walked away.

To repeat - Uh oh.

As the other mum turned to me with a most outraged expression, my immediate reaction was to jump up and down and cheer Miss J for daring to imagine something better. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I am only half hippie so I restrained myself and was faced with a dilemma...
Should I call Miss J back and explain to her that the words she had chosen could potentially hurt other people's feelings and ask her to think of some different words?
Should I explain to the other mum that Miss J had tried to share but her and her daughter just seemed to clash?
Should I offer an apology, shrug my shoulders and walk away?

I was about to settle on a fairly non committal "Kids, hey." with a sincere smile, and hope for the best, but the other mum got in before me.

"You shouldn't let your children talk to other people like that," she said.
"Like what?" I asked.
"Don't you think she was rude?" *Insert accusatory point of finger*
Me, "Actually, I think she was upset after having someone hog her ball and push her in the back."
Other mum, "Well if you want your child to think she can walk away from anything she doesn't like that's your prerogative."
Me, "Yes it is."

Then I went to walk away and the woman shot after me, "Oh - I see where she gets it from. This is your solution is it? Walking away?"

Before I could stop myself, I replied, "Absolutely... I believe it's called, welcome to our world."

I wish I could say I didn't mean it... But you know what? I really did. Not the being offensive part - it was not my intention at all to pick a fight or attack another person. Nor is it my intention with this post to point the accusatory finger or criticise the other person.
What I would really like to do is ask you, what would you have done?

I still believe that I am part hippie, and that this also means I have not lost touch with more conventional ways of thinking. Essentially, I know I think a little differently to some, but I don't think I'm an ignorant hippie... Am I?

Would you have made your child share if they picked up their ball and went to walk away, as Miss J did?
Would you have made your child apologise if they said, "The real world is for people who can't imagine anything better," in response to another adult?
Would you have walked away from the other parent, as I did?

I would love to know - what would you have done?


Debby said...

I think that I would explain that the whole situation was initiated by her daughter's poor social skills, that she had hijacked what had been a pleasant game. Once your daughter realized that she was not going to share, she took her ball back and went back to playing pleasantly...until she was given a shove. I'd have said sweetly, "Perhaps if you'd teach your child to be move verbal, perhaps even try being a little less aggressive and more verbal yourself, you would not have to resort to smacking her for her acts of aggression."

Side note. Use big words. It bothers people.

Mama Zen said...

Is pretending not to speak English an option?

Lin said...

I would have laughed until I had tears rolling down my face! And then I would definitely have walked away. Anyone who cannot see that reply as an absolute gem and at least manage a smile, is not worth my attention.

The mother obviously did not have fabulous people skills either. You cannot talk to people like that so why waste your breath. Which I think is a GOOD thing to teach your kids! Much better to walk away (when you can) than to engage in a verbal slinging match that won't lead anywhere. Wanting to consider other people's feelings should stop when the other people obviously will not make any effort to do the same for you. Self-preservation must come first!

Alison said...

Deb - LOVE the side note! LOL!
It seems kind of fitting that her actions mirrored her daughter's, and my actions mirrored my daughter's. Better not teach the kewl girls any more big words yet though - they keep using them on me!

Mama Zen - Sori? Me no speak Inglesh?

Lin - My half hippie friend almost wet herself laughing.. And I must admit it felt good to have someone else recognise the funny side of the situation.
I like your point about teaching kids to walk away instead of engaging in counter-productive fights. I'm glad Miss J was there to be a good role model for me.. lol

M+B said...

I'd like to think I would have walked away... but then again I may have commented on her child's poor social skills while I congratulated myself on the verbal skills my child possesses, and her wonderful use of them :)

Great job Miss J!

katef said...

Oh man I would have laughed... cheered and laughed. Then probably said something similar to what you did.

I don't think Miss J or you said anything that was rude... no ruder than being shoved in the back or lectured to by a stranger anyway. And I have strong feelings on children being 'forced to share' I just don't think it teaches the kinds of values and ideas that people think it does....

Debby said...

Maybe if I come there, your girls can 'fix' me. I would have wanted to resolve it. Even though I know for a fact that with some, resolution is not possible. Your girls understand that already. I'm 52. Still struggling with that. Good post for us all to think about.

Alison said...

Lani - I still haven't quite decided whether I'm glad I got in my "welcome to our world" or whether I would have liked to just walk away silently. I did kind of like the contrast between the two 'worlds' though, and I hope I didn't offend the other person too much to make my point effective.

Kate - Would love to hear your feelings on kids being forced to share! The girls have toys that are just theirs, and that they don't have to share, then they have some toys that are for everyone - like the ball. Even with the everyone toys I struggle with the sharing issue sometimes.

Debby - Maybe a little shared learning? The Kewl girls can be very quick to walk away when something isn't working for them. I'd like them to learn that wanting a resolution can be a really great thing sometimes.