Yes, again! Hopefully, the last but this seems to be the topic on my mind at the mo.
But this time, I’m not thinking about me (except tangentially).
On Sunday, I took the kids to the park and there were a group of girls playing in the corner my two usually play in. What’s more the girls had used some of the rocks and stones the kids usually play with and creating a very interesting arrangement of leaves and flowers.
My kids ran over while I hung back, or tried to, until I could no longer stand the fact that my kids were barging into a game where they were clearly not wanted (one of the girls had told them “to go away”). When I asked Nene and Mimi to leave that group alone and play somewhere else, the immediately got mutinous. Nene started demanding that the girls give back their rocks and Mimi went so far as to go and grab some.
I was wondering what to do, when the girls ran off. When they didn’t return after a while, I let Nene and Mimi take back one of their rocks. I tried to distract them by asking them to make chutney with leaves. Then one of the girls came back and asked if they had taken their rocks.
Mimi said no, then yes. Then Mimi said: “Do you want to be our friend?” Her approach is so direct. She has used this line after I urged her to ask another child to play. This girl hesitated and said: “I don’t speak English very good.” Mimi spent five minutes babbling about English and Chinese until I gently suggested she ask her her name.
The girls were now in the maze and Mimi ran off after them. I decided to stand and watch. Nene climbed a wall and was watching too: “I know you want to play with them,” I said to Nene. He nodded sadly. It looked like Mimi was getting included. “Okay go,” I said. He ran to them.
Within five minutes they were all playing together. The girls brought me leaves for my chutney. They showed my kids some little crabs they had caught in a plastic bowl. The language didn’t seem to matter, though as inevitably happens they were speaking English. I guess because my kids have so little Chinese but every Chinese kid has some English, the latter becomes the lingua franca.
The experience taught me that I need to hang back more. Kids friendships are not like adult friendships. They come together more easily. They have their own way to breaking in and negotiating. If they get rejected, it’s painful to watch, but they get over it.
Maybe I remember too much of my own childhood. I had a couple of lonely years in primary school that are etched into my memory. I remember rejections clearly. I try to protect my kids from these. But maybe I don’t need to. They are capable of dusting themselves off better than me.
Here’s a picture of the lot of them: