I am a very social and open person, and I love meeting new people. I have a wonderful core group of friends from my elementary years (my oldest friend is from nursery school), as well as a group from my college days. I am still very close to all of them though we have all scattered across the country, because the Internet with all its social networks has helped us stay connected to one another. But I’ve always wanted to find some local friends that I could have regular get togethers with, and I looked to parenthood as the next step in meeting new friends in my life.
When Drake was born, I tried out a few meet up groups as well as Gymboree classes hoping to make some new friends for both Drake and me. While I did make some friends, it was always difficult because of my job. Since I worked as a nanny in a split schedule, I would often go to Gymboree class and see the same moms with their kids. But when class was over and they all wanted to go out to eat or hang out at the mall, I could never join because I would have to head back to work, so the friendships never really lasted because I was never available.
When I became a SAHM this year though, Drake started pre-school and I thought this would finally be the time for me to be able to really commit to friendships. I was looking forward to having playdates and hanging out, and of course breaking up being home all day with two children by myself. I also decided to look around at classes I could possibly attend, meet ups in the area to find moms with children Juliet’s age or moms of more than one like myself. I found a class on a day when Drake didn’t have school for moms with 2 kids, one over 2 and one under 2, and signed us up.
After a few playdates and classes, I realized that my child, my sweet boy, was the mean one. The child who would snatch, push, and all out fight the other children as if he was in a Hunger Games style arena. It was terrible. It was upsetting. It was embarassing.
After a few playdates where I had to hover over Drake constantly, out of fear of him hurting the other children, I started to decline invitations. I felt like it was too stressful for me to chat happily with other moms while also trying to keep Drake out of a constant fray with their children. When we go out to parks or are in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, I always sigh a relief when we are the only ones there and go into an almost heightened state of awareness when another child and parent enters the area.
I have heard many times from other people, other moms, my MIL, Drake’s teachers that this is just typical three year old behavior and that there isn’t something awfully wrong with him, but as his mother it’s very hard to see and deal with. At home Drake isn’t an angel by any means, but we have worked on sharing, not hitting, and overall listening qualities. Whenever Drake acts out in one of those ways, Mr. Chocolate and I work hard to correct his behavior. We count, use time outs, and I do admit to yelling sometimes too (though I am trying to work on that one). I try to reason with Drake and get him to express why he is doing what he is doing.
I have talked with his teachers at school many times, as my biggest fears have always been that he act this way in school against his classmates and teachers and get expelled. But his teachers have always maintained that he is a normal 3 year old boy, no worse than any other they have seen. I have also been told that he probably acts worse with me than anyone else and when we are out, especially when Juliet is also there demanding attention since he knows that I am more prone to not discipline him immediately. Those words are certainly comforting and I know in time Drake will emotionally mature as well, but right now in the thick of it it’s very difficult to deal with.
Drake’s teacher told me that the best thing for Drake to learn how to share and play nicely with other children is exposure to other children (something he gets none of at home and within our family of all adults besides Juliet). But I feel like it’s a double edged sword I’m working with. On one hand Drake needs to be around other children, but when he is around other children, there’s a constant need of keeping on top of him, separating him, talking to him, trying to make him realize it’s not nice to snatch or push, as well reminding him to use polite words like please and sorry. It’s not only exhausting (and at times embarrassing), I also worry a little about how other parents will feel about us. Many times I am just meeting these parents and their children, and I worry too much rough play on Drake’s part will upset them or make them think Drake is a bad child, when truly he is the sweetest boy at home.
We are working as hard as we can at home to try to refine Drake’s behavior (school also helps a lot I’m sure), but I think it’s a different experience when we model sharing and turn taking at home, than when we are out with strangers and new experiences and toys to play with. I hope that this truly is a maturity issue and that as he grows, as well as through our reinforcement of what to do when encountering others in public, Drake will become that loving little boy he is at home to me and Mr. Chocolate and the rest of our family. I hope as Juliet grows, she can help him practice sharing and playing gently with his hands. I hope that when we do go out to make new friends, that they will be understanding of Drake’s ways and help him on his way to learning how to play nicely. I hope soon my child won’t be known as the mean one.
My sweet little boy