I overhear the girls talking. Jackie wants to play by herself an imaginary games with her dragons. They usually play together at an average childish level, with the babies, princess dolls, the cars, the playhouse, LEGO, they color together, they read together, they sled, jump, hide, play board games. The list is huge. But today Jackie didn’t want to play with ivy. Ivy was sad. As they looked at me for a solution, I said Jackie has the right to chose to play by herself. We can never be forced to play when we don’t want to. I sure abide by this rule. At the time I was reading a book, and I said it was a harness activity that gave me joy, and I wouldn’t want to put my book down just because someone wants me to do what they want. We can negotiate though. After I finish we can play something together and so on.
Jackie looks at ivy, whose eyes were sad, shoulder slumped, making her disappointment obvious, and says: “ivy, I simply want to play on my own. It doesn’t mean I don’t like playing with you, or that I don’t love you. I just want to do my own thing. Like you want to have quiet time without me sometimes”.
Ivy comes and sits on the bench in front of me. Her bottom lip quivering. I am tempted to distract her with some activity or offer an alternative. She would take my company in a heartbeat.
I ask her what she’s thinking about. She sits quietly, arms pushed against any the bench, holding her up. My undivided attention seems to make her more emotional. I wait. I don’t feel rushed or impatient. I am genuinely curious about what goes through her mind. Big tears welled up in her eyes. They drop on her knees. She is crying silently. “I bet it’s hard. It’s painful, isn’t it…” she nods. We ponder what seems a long time. I tell her about the time when Jackie was 5. She didn’t have a sister and she played alone a lot. Just like now. And that’s ok. After a few minutes of sitting together in silence I told her we can play the penguins board game after I finish the page of the book I was reading. We played a game. Jackie joined us. Then we played a lot more games together. Then both girls went on to play something else together.
The night ended with a ticket to ride game with friends and it was enjoyable. Ivy was on my team. Jackie’s first independent play. She did great! Today we sat with hard emotions, disappointment, practiced the respect for other peoples choices. And found out that we are stronger than we thought. And that in turn our decisions and preferences will be listened to.