realizing I can't pick my child's friends

Last summer, I blogged about a little girl in Catie’s daycare class who was bossing Catie around. It just occurred to me that I hadn’t really said anything else about it since then.

In the last several months, I’ve learned quite a few things about this girl, Allie, and her home life, which kind of make me feel bad for her. Like:

  • Her parents divorced after Dad started banging his secretary. (Seriously, could that be more of a cliche? And shouldn’t she be called his admin assistant or something? God.)
  • Both parents are now in new relationships (Dad is still with the secretary, Mom has a new boyfriend). And yet, even with a combined total of FOUR adults on the scene, Allie and her sister spend the majority of their evenings and weekends with Catie’s daycare teacher, Mandy. Like, they regularly spend the night at Mandy’s house. Mandy is a young single mom, and I’m sure that the daycare gig doesn’t pay a ton, so she’s happy to have the extra income from being a part-time baby-sitter/nanny. And honestly, Mandy is awesome with kids, with lots of hugs and kisses and “I love you”s and all of that. But still, it’s got to be pretty shitty to have your parents fawn you off on a paid caretaker rather than spend time with you.
  • Case in point: it was Mandy who brought Allie to Catie’s birthday party. On a Saturday afternoon. Allie’s dad showed up briefly, spent most of the time outside on a “business call” on his cell phone, and then left long before the party was over. Mandy took Allie and her sister home with her afterward. Not to her either of the parents’ houses.
  • Mandy brought an old broken cell phone for the kids to play with in the “housekeeping” area of the classroom. When Allie was playing with it, her imaginary conversation went like this: “You need to get over here RIGHT NOW and pick up these kids because they are driving me CRAZY!!!” It’s kind of funny at first glance, but then you think about the whole thing with the parents’ divorce and the fact that Allie is only three, so she’s probably repeating something she’s heard, and suddenly it makes me kind of sick to my stomach.

So, even knowing all that I do about her, and the fact that I kind of feel sorry for her, the fact remains that I still don’t like this kid. She’s obnoxious and rude. She’s bossy. She’s a tattle-tale. (Almost daily, when I pick Catie up, Allie runs over to tell me something Catie did that was bad. I usually just say, “Oh, ok.” I give her no emotional reaction at all.) She throws huge tantrums to get her way, and it works: the parent figures in her life cave in & give her what she wants to keep her quiet, and Mandy also caves in because (I’m guessing) she feels sorry for her too.

And honestly, I feel bad, because what the hell kind of adult am I, that this tiny three year-old child can grate on my nerves the way that she does? But there you have it: I don’t like her. She bugs the crap out of me.

Over the last several months, the dynamic between Catie and Allie has gone through several stages:

1. Allie bosses Catie around. Catie takes it.

2. Catie ignores Allie. The each find other kids to play with.

3. Allie befriends Roman, Catie’s BFF. Catie tries to play with both of them, but it doesn’t really work, so she gives up and plays with the other kids.
(And btw, Roman’s mom told me that Roman informed her, “When I grow up, I’m going to drive a car like Daddy’s, and Catie will ride next to me.” That’s apparently the 3 year-old boy way of saying he intends to marry her. Awww.)

4. Roman & his parents move to California. (So much for that future marriage proposal.) A few other changes in the line-up at daycare leaves Catie and Allie as the only two girls in class.

5. The current status: Catie and Allie are both BFFs and mortal enemies. They hug, they hold hands, they dance together… then five minutes later, they beat the crap out of each other. Mandy says they “take turns being the boss” now, which I guess is a good thing?

But the fights. Oh man, the fights. One day on the playground, Catie and a couple of other kids were in the little plastic playhouse. Catie told Allie she couldn’t come in. (Which, yes, that is bossy and rude, I admit.) Allie responded by dragging Catie to the ground by her hair. Catie screamed, “You pulled my beautiful blonde hair!!” and cried to Mandy about it. (And ok, that line made me laugh. And realize that maybe I compliment her hair too much.)

In adult terms, I kind of see them like Linda Evans and Joan Collins on “Dynasty.”

BFFs:

Not so much:

The problem I’m noticing is that Catie is starting to adopt some of Allie’s more obnoxious behaviors, with the whining, rudeness, and tantrums. We try to nip it in the bud. I’ve told her flat-out that acting that way might work for Allie, but we don’t act like that in our house.

And yes, I’m sure that the impending arrival of Baby 2.0 has a lot to do with it. I’ve been out of commission a lot because I feel lousy, and Dave has had to take over as more of a disciplinarian. So Catie is challenging that whole dynamic shift. I understand that: it’s her job to test boundaries, and it’s our job to enforce them. That’s normal.

So we’re working on it. I just wish there was a way I could hand-pick Catie’s friends for her, and I know I can’t. I also know that this is the least of my troubles compared to, say, when she becomes a teenager.

Sigh. I tell you, man, this parenting gig is rough.

  1. My son is in kindergarten and has a very similar dynamic with a boy who is not only in his class, but also on his t-ball team. And, oh yeah, he lives across the street. I try to minimize the time they spend together, even though sometimes my son literally begs to hang out with this other child who often isn’t very nice to him. And yes, I’ve seen the not-niceness appear in my son’s behavior towards others. This part of parenting is harder than I thought it would be.

    • @Jacquie | After Words, Oh man, that is a LOT of togetherness time for those kids. We have the advantage of not seeing Allie outside of daycare hours. I don’t know how you deal with it when the other child is right there across the street, all the time.

  2. Some of it…and I almost hate to tell you this, is the four. She’s nearly four, right? Four is full of attitude and opinions and whining, oh the whining.

    I always feel bad for the kids like that too. I swear there is one in every daycare that my kids have been in.

    • @Issa, Catie turned 4 back in January. Allie is younger & won’t be 4 until later this summer.

      But yeah, I figured that part of it is the age, standard developmental stuff. It’s just rough, trying to explain to Catie why this behavior might get THAT child what she wants, but sorry, baby, that tactic won’t fly with Mommy & Daddy.

      • @Cindy W, She’s a smart girl. She’ll get it. I have always told mine, you are my child and you do not get to behave like that. Shrug. I sound just like my dad when I say it too. ha.

  3. Wow, I kind of feel bad for Allie too…

    I’m sure it’s just a stage for Miss Catie, but yes, with 2 girls you will have your hands full come the teenage years!!

    • @AmazingGreis, I feel bad for her too. And it’s sort of the way I feel about people who are bad dog owners – it’s not the dog’s fault, it’s the lazy owners who put no effort into training them. Same thing with kids. I know it’s not her fault, but it doesn’t make her less annoying.

      As for having 2 teenage girls… imagine if all 3 of us “sync up” and have PMS at the same time. Dave’s gonna have to move out for 5-7 days a month!

  4. Wow. I feel bad for Allie but that’s no reason to treat other kids like that. And to be honest shame on the parents.

    But my lord I seriously burst out laughing with the “my beautiful hair!” comment. I saw Dynasty immediately too! That was great.

    As long as you and Dave are nipping it in the bud and telling her that behavior doesn’t work at home I see no problems in the future. I mean we all go through stages. Girls I think a little more than boys. And you guys are awesome parents so she’ll be good. 🙂

  5. We have a similar problem with a neighbor whose backyard connects with ours. I call her “the brat in the backyard.” I spend a lot of time trying to explain to our girls why she’s wrong, but most of the time I just try to keep them away from her. I know it’s not an option for you, though. I feel badly that I dislike such a small child so much, but I do.

    • @Shari, That’s exactly it. I feel like, I’m the grown-up! I shouldn’t dislike this tiny little kid whose main problem is that she has really lousy parents. But oh man, she irks the crap out of me.

  6. Most of this is normal behavior. Think of it as practice for when the girls are 13.