And Me

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I love my daughter very much.  She’s funny and smart and loving.  She always wants to make people smile and laugh, she’s easy to feed and easy to settle to sleep, and she’s very cuddly and loving.  She’s prone to dramatics and temper tantrums like any 3 year old, but overall the kid’s pretty cool.

That being said she has a personality “thing” that proves tiresome.

“And me!  And me!  And me!”

No experience can go by that she doesn’t want to be part of.  Nothing can happen that she doesn’t want to see.  If you have food, she wants it.  If you’re playing with a toy, she wants to share.  If you’re watching something, she needs to see it.

For me it’s a little tiresome and means doing things takes longer because she’s involved, and the “and me!” for putting away laundry usually involves me having to fish my knickers out of her pyjama drawer and her socks out of her dad’s vests.  But she’s happy and involved, and I’m a big believer in encouraging them to get involved with chores.  So it’s fine.

The problems arise when it’s her step brother’s experiences she wants in on, or I expect, the kids at school.

Z is a much more insular child than Miss Rose.  He likes to be left alone to do his own thing, be it playing with a toy on his own quietly or sitting in front of the laptop watching his favourite movie of the moment, currently Big Hero 6.  Rose has no interest in Big Hero 6, but she is obsessed with trying to watch it.  She will be happily occupied with colouring when he gets the trains out, but then immediately needs to be part of his activity.  And he objects.  Most passionately.

In theory it’s not a problem, it’s not “his” film and they’re not “his” trains.  She’s just sharing and we encourage them to share.

The rules are simple: they both have their own special toys (Rose’s Peter Rabbit, Z’s Thor) that the other cannot play with unless they permit it.  There are individual toys (the Noah’s ark, the peg board) that they are both entitled to but only one can play at a time and they must take turns.  There are communal toys (the Legos, the cars, the trains) that are to be shared because there’s plenty to go around for everyone.

This works great except Miss Rose is so desperate to be part of the game that she will often take over and start changing whatever it is that Z had initially set out to do, and because it was his chosen activity in the first place, he quite rightly does not appreciate it suddenly being hijacked.

To be fair to her, she doesn’t always try to take over, and she does genuinely want to join in because she loves him and loves any opportunity to play with him.  It’s just her enthusiasm and natural exuberance tends to mean she gets carried away and annoys her play partner.  And because Z is anticipating her taking over, even if she doesn’t and just wants to be there playing too, he gets defensive and angry about her presence just in case.

It’s a tricky balance.  We need Miss Rose to understand that if someone is playing with a game, she’s not entitled to be part of it and certainly shouldn’t be trying to take over.  We need Z to respect that shared toys are shared for a reason and he can’t have ownership over all toys he wants to play with and all screens he wants to watch.  We don’t want to squash Rose’s enthusiasm and social energy, but we need to respect that Z needs his time alone to be happy.

I worry that if Miss Rose doesn’t curtail this tendency she will become isolated at school because nobody will want to play with her, and for a social animal like Rose that would be agony.  She’s so desperate to be part of things, so desperate to have friends and love, that being excluded would hurt her intensely.  Nothing makes her happier than when she’s part of something.  Playing with the girls next door in whatever game they’re part of thrills her with joy.  Playing snakes and ladders or dancing with Daddy is her highlight of any day.  She just wants to be involved, wants to be accepted, and if she drives everyone mad trying to take over she won’t be.

We are hoping that social Darwinism will teach it to her fast.  She’s in nursery school now and will soon start to work out what is pushing people away from her and that respecting their boundaries and right to alone time will win her far more friends and playmates than being a butt in.

I love my little girl so much and her happiness means more to me than anything.  This is the only aspect of her personality I can see driving a wedge between herself and that happiness being achieved, and it’s not because she’s cruel or unkind or rude, it’s because she’s enthusiastic and friendly and hasn’t learned how to understand other people’s boundaries.  So it’s something that can be solved with experience and age, and once she has figured it out she’ll be fine.  And maybe my laundry will end up in the right places…

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