Vail Novice Father: Does not play well with others
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Babies tend to not interact with other babies. They’re far more concerned with toys, food and the adults who actually deliver toys and food. If a baby does take an interest in another baby, she does it in the same way she interacts with a semi-interesting toy: she inspects it briefly and then get back to business with the good stuff elsewhere.
My toddler daughter, now a year and a half, is at the point where she’s starting to interact with other kids her age. Yet she still mostly sees other kids as objects that get in her way and take the toys she wants to play with. Other children have no real value to her.
My wife and I now put a lot of effort into changing that perception. We give the Kid plenty of chances to develop her social skills with children her age. We take her to the playground regularly, put her in daycare, and schedule play dates weeks in advance.
The results aren’t always pretty.
One day the Kid was playing near another girl at a little play table. This other girl was about the Kid’s age, but a little bigger. She didn’t like that the Kid was trying to play with the same plastic train cars, so she stiff-armed the Kid away. I watched this, but I was willing to let the situation play out. Normally the Kid gives much more than she gets in the stiff-arm category. If nothing else, the Kid would get a taste of her own medicine.
Experts call this “age appropriate behavior.” This term means that it’s normal for my toddler to push, bite and cry when other kids do stuff she doesn’t like. An adult just needs to come in and gently tell her “we don’t hit” or “we share our toys,” and distract her with something else.
If I were to push and cry and bite when the line was too long at the Post Office, it would be “age inappropriate,” and I’d likely get a lot of dirty stares. That’s why I don’t act that way (even though sometimes I’d really like to).
The Kid didn’t let the first push from this girl bother her and kept reaching across the table for the train cars. This other girl, fed up with this, turned to completely face the Kid, put both her hands on the Kid’s shoulders, and threw her down like she was competing in a state championship wrestling meet.
Now this was too much … even for my “live and let live” parenting strategy. I swooped in, separated the two, and gave my first-ever parenting to a child not my own.
“We need to share our toys,” I told this little bully.
The Kid was of course on her butt, age-appropriately crying.
Conflicts like this one are few and far between. Usually the Kid won’t get close enough to another child to allow any interaction – let alone conflicts – take place.
I always have high hopes for any play date I take the Kid too. I imagine the Kid handing toys to other children, holding their hands as they walk to the slide together. Of course this is pure fantasy. Reality is the Kid darting off as soon as I put her on the ground. She ignores any child or adult (even her own parents) as she fixates on whatever playground equipment, pile of dirt, or trash receptacle that grabs her attention.
I like to call this “being independent.” Truthfully, I fear she’ll never fully socialize with other children. I don’t want her to grow up to be the “paste-eater” in school.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to email@example.com.