Last week I walked in to the kitchen to hear Ari engaging in a very interesting conversation. Without divulging too many details, I will try to give you a sense of the conversation.
Ari has a couple really close friends. Other than that she is not that interested in being social. Both my husband and I are a lot like her. I knew everyone I went to high school with. I mean everyone. I knew kids a year and two years older. I knew kids a year and two years younger. I knew a bunch of people no where near my age because of my mother's gas station and my older brothers. That is what happens when you live in one town for 15 years. And when that one town has 4 elementary schools that feed in to one junior high and eventually one senior high. But even knowing all those people, I had maybe 5 close friends.
So back to Ari. Ari does not do the acquaintance thing. Either you are someone who is her friend, someone she has not decided on yet, or someone she does not really want to spend time with. I used to obsess over this quality. I wondered if I was not giving her enough opportunities to meet other kids. I pondered whether our lifestyle had made her less social. And then I realized it is just her personality.
Last week a boy she likes to play with came over. I could tell they were not playing well together. The boy kept asking Ari what she wanted to do. Although she had plenty of ideas and found things to keep herself occupied, the two of them were just not playing together. This has happened many times over the last 6 months or so. At some point the boy said he was going to go and play with another one of his friends. This is where it got really interesting.
Ari very directly asked him if he came to our house to play with her or if he came to our house because it was convenient and he had nothing better to do. This is the point at which I walked in. The kid looked like a deer in the headlights. I asked Ari if she needed some help and she asked me to stay and help them talk this situation out.
Ari explained to the boy that she does not play with people she does not want to. She said it was important to her that he was coming over to play with her. And then she told him that she was trying to understand his intentions. If he made his decision to come play because he wanted to play with her then she was happy to have him over. If, however, he was coming over because there was no one else to play with or to play on our computers then she would rather he not come over at all. He mentioned that he did not want to hurt her feelings. She explained that she would rather have her feelings hurt by someone being honest with her than believe something that was not true. I explained to him that no one in our family was going to be mad at him or be mean to him. We had no ill will about what he chose to do, but that Ari was requesting that he be clear about why he was coming over.
The boy left. Ari went out in to the backyard and looked a little solemn. I went out to check on her and she said, "Don't feel bad for me mom, I have lost friends before." I gave her a look of "are you crazy", and told her "I don't feel sorry for you." I went on to explain to her that I felt what she had done was really mature. She was willing to state exactly what worked for her in a relationship, she was willing to lose a relationship that did not work for her, and she was so direct about what being in relationship meant to her. She was not mean or abusive in any way just very up front.
And once again, I get a much needed reminder that I have as much to learn from our kids as they do from me. And, a reminder of what my mentor/ teacher has already told me about being in relationship:
"...we cannot be truly powerful in a relationship if we are competing for dominance, or being subservient or avoiding conflict. We may even realize the simple truth that both of these methods are equally about controlling what happens in the relationship, the first dominating, is about winning the fight, and the second, being subservient, about avoiding the fight altogether. While the conflict avoider may appear to us somewhat as more sympathetic- "nicer" than the dominator- the reality is that energetically, both are playing the same game; they simply have chosen different poles on the polarity of domination and subservience. The real sacrifice is authenticity. There is no authenticity here. It is all a game, a competition, an exercise in the misuse of power and energy. What drives this behavior is the perception that losing the relationship or the person is worse than giving away power or abusing it. The authenticity must be sacrificed in order to maintain the relationship." Spotted Eagle
Forest School at Crestwood Park
1 day ago