Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Sharing

Oh, the drama of 2nd grade friendships!
I remember the constant on-again, off-again friendship Sylvia went through with her best friend. Now it's happening with Riley and her friend, whom I'll call L.
Riley is by nature incredibly giving and empathetic. As much as she fights with her sister, she's usually the first to give in without my intervention.
L made friends with Riley during the first week of school. This is Riley's first year at this school (poor thing, she's gone to a new school every year so far). It seems that L takes full advantage of Riley's giving nature, and Riley sacrifices partly because she's afraid she'll lose L's friendship otherwise.
I learned that L (and others, but mainly L) were eating a lot of Riley's lunch. Riley wanted me to start giving her more and more with each passing day, but hey, I'm not in a position to feed more than my own 2 daughters every day! I told her that her lunch is hers, and that she could tell L and the others that her mommy told her not to share.
It feels weird to say that, but at the same time, it felt necessary.
Danimals were on sale a few weeks ago, so I'd gotten some for the girls. The other day, Riley came home very upset. L and some others had taken her Danimals, and Riley finally went to a teacher to get it back. L then went on to tell the entire class not to be Riley's friend anymore.
Sylvia and I were ready to kick some ass lend some help when we heard that! First, we offered words of support, like “she doesn’t sound like much of a friend,” but Riley didn’t agree with us on that one. We both offered to write notes to L – I would write about how I don’t want Riley to share her lunch, and Sylvia would write about what a good person Riley is.
We added it to that night’s homework. Riley, being Riley, didn’t take them to school the next day. But L had offered her one more chance. That burned me even more! How dare L string my Riley along like that!
They’ve been back and forth like this for a while. And I have tried to be fair about it, taking each situation individually, and telling Riley when she’s done something that could be hurtful to L, trying to teach her how to be a good friend.
But, more and more lately, it seems that L and I have completely different definitions of how friends should treat friends!
Now, I have to figure out how to balance encouraging Riley’s innate kindness, but also, teach her how to toughen up a little more. I did praise her for going to the teacher, as that was the only way she felt she could defend herself, but I also wasn’t pleased with the teacher’s response, which seemed to be an off-handed, “oh, you’ll work it out.” I’m sure they don’t have tons of time to engage in active listening and all that, but it doesn’t seem to me that it would’ve taken too much time for the teacher to tell the kids not to take Riley’s food away from her again.
This navigation of human relationships starts very early, doesn’t it? Learning how to give and take, learning how much one gives or takes…
It’s much easier when they’re toddlers, and you’re trying to teach them how to share properly. Then, you get into the whole equality issue, particularly with siblings! And it seems most of our focus is on teaching how to give.
But at some point, with some people, the teaching of taking can become necessary. Well, not taking so much, but at least learning how to keep what you have. That’s a difficult concept to explain to a 7-year-old.

1 comment:

LunaNik said...

My oldest daughter, Loki, is the same as your and kind and empathetic by nature. I have already seen her be bullied by other children during a few playdates and I fear for her. I have actually considered holding her back a year so that she can be in the same class as her sister who is much more assertive, but I don't think that would be a wise thing to do. Like you, I want to maintain her gentle nature while fostering the 'tough' side of her. I don't have any advise on's something I know I'll have to deal with also in the future.