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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Soul Searching At The Playground.

Our mission this summer has been to visit as many playground parks as possible. I wanted Sugar Bear to experience them all, so that we could find a favorite. It has been fun. Oddly enough, along the way, I have learned a great deal about myself. I certainly didn't expect to spend so much time analyzing my "mama bear instincts".

I have come to realize that I have many hang ups regarding taking my daughter out into the world, and letting her socialize with strangers. I have a few social issues myself, but I suppose I didn't think I would carry them over in this way. I worry that I will somehow impose my own fears onto her, so I find myself really having to stand back and observe.

Personally, I am not a "meeter". I don't like meeting new people all that much, and I certainly don't do it on my own accord. Once I get to know someone, I am considerably social, but if it were up to me, I am not sure I'd seek out new friends. I am not all that certain where this comes from, or exactly when it began. I don't recall being this way as a child, nor young adult. It is no secret that I am a homebody these days, but when exactly did I become so uneasy with putting myself out there?

By far, the most nerve racking part of accompanying my daughter to a playground is watching her put herself out there to other children. I am like a nervous mother hen. I hoover, and wring my hands, and worry that she will be rejected. Watching her ease up to another child and say, "HI! I'm Sugar Bear ( she actually uses her real name)!" for the first time literally made me nauseous. My thoughts raced. Please let the child acknowledge her....please let the child be nice to her....please let her feel confident and happy with this meeting! The anxiety I felt was overwhelming. I had to resist the urge to run to her, hear every word, and assure her if she was not accepted. Indeed that first time she was ignored....she was not successful, and it broke my heart. She looked confused as the child just skipped away without saying a word. I bit my nails as she turned to me. Amazingly enough she said, "I talk to a friend mama!" and happily ran off to go slide. Could it be, that just simply having the courage to just introduce herself was victory enough?

As the summer progressed, she continued to try to interact with these strange children, and I have continued to stand in angst. Some children have smiled, some have spoke back kindly proceeding to play with her. Some however, have been mean. OH does a mother deal with this? The three year old girl, who won't let my daughter go up the ladder. The four year old boy that runs around calling her a "BABY". The Spanish speaking child who sticks her tongue out and yells, "bawlk, bawlk, bawlk!" at her (yes...I do believe she was pretending to be a chicken....but I am not certain, nor was Sugar Bear). What does a mother do? What lesson is to be learned? Sugar Bear usually looks at them with confusion, but doesn't slink away. She stands her ground and just watches them. I fight the urge...I stand there arguing with myself to go or not to help or not to is so troubling. Unless things get physical, I try to very hard to let her deal with it at the time, then as we travel home, I ask her about her play. I mention the child that was unkind, and feel her out. Surprisingly, Sugar is rarely worried about these incidents. If only mommy could relax.....our time at the park would be more enjoyable.

It is a constant battle in my mind as we drive to a playground park. Half of me hopes no one will be there, so that we have it all to ourselves. I enjoy not having to stress over what the other children are doing and saying to my girl. The other half of me hopes other children will be there, so that my girl has someone to play with. It is undeniable that she enjoys herself so much more when there is another child to play with. At her age, this play consists of "follow me" or "I'll follow you", but none the less, she loves it. Isn't that the point...for Sugar Bear to have fun? Why do I set myself up for so much anxiety? Not one time, has she been upset by another child. Not once has she been emotionally damaged by another child. Why then, do I get so worked up? It is clearly my issue, but am I the only one? Am I the only mother who struggles to maintain her sanity as her child puts them self out there to be accepted? Will this get easier or harder as she grows?

Regardless of my inner turmoil, Sugar Bear has had a wonderful summer so far. I am not sure we have found a favorite playground, but we have ruled out several due to safety issues. These pictures are actually from mid-April, at a county park. This particular day was possibly the second time she introduced herself to another child. This little girl wanted none of her, but Sugar was persistent, and just followed her around. Her mother said her name was Abby, so Sugar Bear just trailed along saying, "Happy....what you doing happy?" I had to tell her 400 times that her name was Abby, but she kept right on saying "Happy". They may have not played together exactly, but there were a few moments of interaction, and it was those moments that meant the world to her. She spoke of her new friend for weeks. I suppose that is what it is all about, right?

Who knows what was said in the moment I snapped that picture...but I think it is priceless! :)

10 Live It or Love It:

Boricua in Texas said...

Wonderful pictures. And you are right, the last one is priceless.

It sounds like Makenna is learning a lot from these experiences. You are a very caring mama and you want to protect her from rejection, it is totally understandable. Kenna is probably very confident in her self-worth because she has such a loving mama that she can deal with the rejection of other kids without falling into despair.

Laura said...

Awww, love the pics! Especially that last one!

I definitely share your worries when it comes to Maya interacting with other kids. I know it's not possible to ensure that she never feels rejection, but I would so love to protect her from ever feeling that hurt. It is true, though, that so often at this age it seems like just following another child around is enough to make them a "friend", so that's been a relief to me so far. But yeah, eventually I know she'll become aware of unkindness...and I'm not looking forward to that at all. :(

David Spach said...

I think rejection is something everyone (even those who dish it out) have felt at sometime in their lives. Mine are too young to really know it, but I know how I will confront it when they ask about it. I want to teach them that no matter who rejects them they are to love them no matter what. That Jesus was rejected by his own people but that he still loved them enough to forgive them on the cross. And that as Jesus forgave them He also forgives us, even when we reject Him. My only goal in life is to teach my children that the only thing that matters is their relationship with Jesus and how they transmit that love to others. And hopefuly, even amongst rejection, they will still feel strong enough to continue to approach others with the Love that knows rejection all too well. So don't worry too much, but of course be there for them when it really affects them. I love how innocent children are and how they can just brush off anythign that hurts them, as long as they get a hug and kiss from mommy or daddy. - Great post!

Deb said...

Those are wonderful pictures - I love her little pigtails! :)

It is hard to see them put themselves out there and hope that the world (especially all of those other kids) will accept and embrace them. I tend toward the shy side myself and am constantly amazed by how social my girls are and how easily they run up to 'strange' children and ask to be friends. My oldest (her name is Abby, so I loved your 'Happy' story - that's just priceless!) tends to come on 'too strong' to other children and be rebuffed at times and fighting my urge to run out there and intervene is very difficult. She is just getting to the point now, at age 6, where she is starting to notice and be upset when this happens - especially since it doesn't tend to happen to her younger sister. The balance between being shy and being too outgoing is such a fine line - it's wonderful that your little one is so confident in herself and very awesome of you to be giving her so many opportunities to make new friends (and find great parks!). :)

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

I do a lot of soul searching at the playground, too, Corey. :)

I agree so much with Ingrid that it's because of Makenna's firm foundation in a loving environment at home that she has the courage to make friends wherever she is. I think that speaks VOLUMES about the way you are raising her, and I applaud you for that.

I love that she is learning it takes all kinds to make this world go 'round. Some people are friendly, some aren't, but you can still be who YOU are wherever you go. Love it.

And I LOVE THESE PICTURES! Every one of them - just darling.

Anonymous said...

This post just makes me love you sooo much! (Not in a weird way~I promise!) As Moms, I just think we can all relate to the feelings you expressed so very well.

About the contest thing~I DO have a business, and so my follow-up e-mail did share my site should anyone desire help with my product line, so it was seen as a marketing e-mail~which in a sense it was! I think taking the time to go to each blog individually says that you're WONDERFUL and would NOT be looked at in the same way.... (((((HUGS))))) sandi

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics. You've got a great eye. I can relate to many of your feelings! Thanks for stopping by my blog and I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

I love that last picture and those PANTS! I want a pair for myself!

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

Beautiful Pictures! I really love your work!

Pam said...

You know, I am so worried about safety that I don't even think about my kids socializing with the other kids. With two little ones running in opposite directions, I am just happy if no one gets hurt or hurts another child!

I loved how you told the story while putting in pictures from Makenna playing on the playground. It was like we were reading your thoughts as you watched her play. Very nice.

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