They became friends two years ago. On many occasions they were inseparable. They played nicely, they learned from each other, they completed each other. It was an easier relationship to manage than some of the ones with girlfriends.
Up to a point.
School brought up more differences and pretty soon they stopped playing together. Especially in school. She had new little girlfriends with things in common. Boys became more warriors.
He used to visit us after school. And it was nice to give them a change to socialize supervised, especially at home during winter.
But the boy grew more restless and loud.
These would have been just fine, if he didn’t also become more disrespectful with adults and forceful with kids.
I like his parents. They are fine people. But I took the last few months, time to observe. Observe my daughter’s demeanor around him, agitation afterwords, words and behavior borrowed.
And I didn’t like what I saw. I started keeping her away from the boy. First in creative ways. Finding things to do away from the neighborhood.
I addressed my daughter’s new attitudes, disrespect, stubbornness, and assumed it’s her age. Trying new things, finding her new boundaries. A month ago she became a full time big sister and that is enough to cause a change in her behavior. It would be too easy to blame it on the adoption of a 3 year old, younger sister. But it would be blind of me to dismiss the context of life.
It all started a year ago. He gained more confidence after kindergarten and became more vocal and more independent.
As they both did something stupid in our home I corrected Jackie. His eyes were big, looking at me. I employed this strategy before, correcting an action discreetly, and letting the guest kid learn passively. It usually works. I don’t put them on the spot, I don’t offend or scare them. But one day the boy laughed. Loud. And said: “ha! You don’t correct me because you’re not my mother”. I was appalled. I looked at him and said: “if you are wise you will learn from my words. I don’t have to address you directly because I know what you did as well.”
Outside, he plays unsupervised. He gets into all kind of trouble. But it’s his life journey and experience. I guess.
But when it affects my kids directly, I must take a stand.
I should have known then. But we only addressed it lightly. Only 5 kids outside, and just a grandma and I to supervise, this boy was pushing around a younger boy. The grandchild of my neighbor. It was all fun and games until the little boy asked to be left alone. He seemed distressed. Within seconds jackie found herself hit in the face with a toy. The little boy defended himself. We were right there, and didn’t catch it in time. My daughter cried. She had a long scratch on her check from the wheels of a toy train cart.
The little boy was punished. The older boy got away without even a scolding. But I remembered the incident.
Fast forward to our younger daughter coming home. My eldest teased her lightly. I asked her why. She said: “to have fun” I was taken aback and pushed forward for more details. She said that’s how the boy next door has fun. At the expense of the younger kids. We talked about the seed of bullying and the command to love our neighbor. About kindness and patience and selflessness.
We started avoiding the boy even more, and saw the transparent demeanor of my eldest confirm the influence.
She’s said this much, and neighbors have overheard, the boy threatening my daughter, in jest, that if she doesn’t do what he says, he’ll hurt her. Well, that is NOT OK. We don’t play with threats.
He’s contradicted adults left and right. Adults try to reason with him, but he has an answer for everything, and most adults are taken aback because he shouts back his defense.
My last interaction with him, was as he tried to take a toy out of my youngest daughter’s hand, as I was standing next to her, because my eldest daughter refused to give her toy to him. At least there’s that. My eldest stands up for herself. But as he reached for my youngest daughters hands, I said: “hey! You don’t take toys from kids younger than you. Just because you can” there was silence. He was startled. A grandma was looking at us. Nobody said anything. He tried to say something but the command was simple. I felt vindicated. Later on it dawned on me that he does this often. He is the oldest in his household and in the neighborhood and feels entitled. But not on my watch.
I’m stern. I have hawk eyes. I am a mama-bear. I’ve had conversations with his mom. But even that is getting tiring. So we stay away. To the best of our ability.
He apologizes with words but the behavior slips. Now I have two daughters in an overwhelming transition to watch over, guide, help. And figuring out his triggers or speaking to him is more work than I can fathom.
So, we’re breaking up with the boy next door. Our daughter is undeniably drawn to him and his taste for trouble. She’s asked me to help her set boundaries with him. An ongoing journey. I’m sure this is a strong foundation for future disciplining, connection and awareness. But boy this year has been challenging.