I’m concerned about Pixie.
I know, I know, again. But I am.
Recently she’s been showing a lot of ‘mean girl’ tendencies. Very bossy. Constantly demanding that we all make a big fuss over her clothes, and her hair accessories, and her socks. Refusing to take turns. Pouting, whining, and ultimately yelling at Louis for saying “no, CARTER is my best friend. You are just my FRIEND.” Flouncing off in a huff when the other kids don’t play the games she dictates, with the rules she decides. Pretending to cry when disciplined in any way.
I was chalking it up to being in preschool. This is going to sound catty, but there is a very image-conscious group of moms & daughters in that school, and I assumed she’d fallen in with them. All of her behaviours seemed consistent with what I’ve seen from them. Also, and I’m sorry to say this but it’s true, her mom is very much in that mould (“I’m such a diva! I’m so moody!” she’s said to me more than once, as if those are positive traits to brag about) so I figured my own little lessons about kindness and looking beyond the superficial were just getting swallowed.
Yesterday was the annual preschool field trip to the fire station. Parents or guardians or obliging caregivers have to go along on that trip, so there I was with all four kids, hoping like hell that everyone would behave. (They did. It was nice.)
It gave me the opportunity to observe the kids in the preschool environment and that was an eye-opener.
Louis was beyond good. Quiet. Respectful. Participating cheerfully in all of the planned activities. Chatting a bit with the other kids. I was so pleased to see him doing so well.
The It Girls (or Plastics, or Heathers, pick your nomenclature) were all sitting together. High-heeled shoes. Dripping with rings, bracelets, necklaces, flowers in their hair. They were giggling, giving each other elaborate hugs, and being disruptive. I watched as Pixie tried pushing her way into the group, over and over again, as they turned their backs, as they ignored her words and pointedly paid no attention to her. It was painfully obvious that instead of being one of the It Girls, Pixie is not. And she’s hurting because of it.
Suddenly all of her recent unpleasant behaviour at home makes a lot more sense. She’s mimicking what she sees the It Girls doing at school, not because she’s a part of it, but because she isn’t.
Now, this is not a reason to treat the other kids (and me, frankly, although I’m old and can handle it) like garbage. Yesterday afternoon it all came to a head. Pixie was being horrible to each child in turn. Louis finally said sternly “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WITH YOU RIGHT NOW. LEAVE ME ALONE.” I kept taking her aside, talking to her calmly about how to be a nice friend, sending her back, watching her push, and whine, and upset the other kids. Eventually the four of them settled into playing restaurant. I exhaled and turned on the teakettle. After five peaceful minutes, this happened:
Pixie: And what can I get for you, George?
George: I would like a cup of tea, please.
Pixie: *pours tea* Here you go. And here is your milk.
George: No, I don’t want milk in my tea.
Pixie: BUT YOU HAVE TO HAVE MILK IN YOUR TEA. TEA HAS MILK.
George: No, I don’t! I don’t like milk in my tea!
Pixie: YES. YES TEA HAS MILK AND YOU WILL HAVE MILK IN YOUR TEA BECAUSE IT HAS TO HAVE MILK!!!
George: *bursts into frustrated tears*
Pixie found herself sitting at the table with a puzzle for the remainder of the day, because I’m having enough doubts about the impact of this whole dayhome thing on my little guy without the stray children actively torturing him for their own amusement.
Anyway, her dad and I had a long chat at pick up time. He admitted that he’d been seeing the same kind of behaviour from Pixie at playgrounds or around friends’ kids. While we agreed that it is sad that she’s already running up against the popular kids at school, we are also in agreement that we can’t allow her to push her bad feelings onto younger kids. As we discussed this with her, she ran through all the tools in her arsenal: she tried changing the subject, fluttering her eyelashes, saying she loved us, hugging her dad’s legs, and pretending to cry.
When her dad said that a bad report today would mean no playground trip on the weekend, that got through. Suddenly the tears were real. I squatted down at her level and reminded her gently that we all love her, that we want to play and be her friend, but that kind words and actions have to happen so that everyone could be happy. I encouraged her to actually go to sleep at bedtime (that’s another issue for another day) and to try again in the morning.
It’s now lunchtime. She’s been studiously well-behaved. I’m seeing more smiles, more laughing, and generally a much better attitude. The other kids have responded in kind and we’ve had a successful morning. She claims that she did go to sleep last night when she was supposed to, and certainly she doesn’t have the glassy-eyed look that was her hallmark since the long weekend.
I don’t pretend for a minute that this is the end of the problem. In fact I’m sure that it is not. But at least it’s making for a mostly-peaceful Friday, and right now, I’ll take it.