Afternoon at Home

We are having a Saturday afternoon at home today.  It's really nice not to have anything to do...  The kids have two friends over and they are partying.  I am folding laundry in my room and I can hear them playing.  They are playing school in Rowan's room.  Its really amazing to listen to them and their interactions...  It is a nice testament to all the work the kids and I do towards getting along.

It is really important to me that my kids know how to problem solve.  I know that they would much prefer that I do all the problem solving (especially when I forget to keep them in the same boat and take one of their sides), but I have decided to stop doing all the work.  Instead I help them think about the words they can use to solve their problems.  I'm often heard saying things like, "When everyone is having a good time, everyone is fun to play with."  I have been saying that for a long time, having faith that they catch my drift.  Today has been a good test for their skills.

One of the friends that is over is Rowan's BF.  Ian happens to love her too, and she is really nice to him so it is pretty easy to have her over most of the time.  Being a tomboy helps her cross over into the little brother realm...  The other friend who is over is the same age as Ian, a scrappy little sister who really loves to play with the big girls, but is on the same wavelength age-wise with Ian.  These kids play together a lot and know each other pretty well.  Usually the drama starts when someone, usually one of the younger kids, starts to feel left out...  Today it began with Ian.

I could hear some heated voices coming from Rowans room, soon followed by a tearful Rowan, really upset that Ian is playing music while the other kids are having a "quiet work time" (remember, they are playing school).  He won't stop or listen to her, and she is clearly upset.

I say, "Okay, go get Ian and I'll help you guys work it out."

She just stands there staring at me for a moment.  "Why?  Why do I have to be in here?  Why can't you just talk to him?" Again, tearful, incredulous that I would expect her to be involved in the problem solving.

So I share a little tidbit with her, "Rowan, if I just tell him to knock it off, he will find something equally as annoying to do to bug you.  If you and Ian are face to face, and you figure out how what both of you need to make it fun, then your problem is really solved."  Not bad, mom!  Feeling pretty skilled...

I let Rowan ponder the meaning of that as I call Ian into my room.

Ian comes bouncing in, "Yeah mom."  I say nothing, only look at Rowan.

"Ian, It really hurts my feelings when you don't listen to me.  I asked you to stop making music because we were having quiet time and you didn't care."

"But I want to play music for everyone, " Ian says, quick to plead his defense.

This is cool.  Both kids are respectfully letting each other know what they need, using voices and body language that shows they are connecting to the other person.  They have accepted the fact that this is how you work it out.  HOORAY!!!

I then offer up a suggestion, "Hey, maybe you guys can have music class in a little while?  Rowan you can be the teacher, and then all the kids can play with an instrument and make music?  Wouldn't that be so fun?"

"Ok!" both kids quickly say, and they start out of the room.

"Wait!" I say, "you guys need to high five or hug or something before you leave."  Rowan put her hand out and they shook hands, then Ian got the dreamiest smile on his face and he leaned in to hug it out.  I wish I could have taken a picture - total, genuine warmth between the two of them in that moment.

The problem had been solved and I go back to my folding...  A little while later, Ian comes in to share some news.  The other kindergartner (scrappy little sister from up the street, so cute) doesn't want to play anymore and doesn't want to go home.  He doesn't really give me much more information so I start asking some questions.

"Is she hurt?"


"Is she sad?"

"Well, yeah," he says.  "Well..." he says softly, "I might have hurt her feelings."

I say, "You might have hurt her feelings and you feel bad?"


"Do you want me to help you figure out how to help her feel better?"

"Yeah." Sweet Ian, he wasn't even looking at me too much during this conversation.  He tells me what happened - he was the teacher and she got into "trouble" and he gave her a consequences that she didn't like so she just dropped her head and quit playing.  He knew he wasn't being very nice and he came to get help.  I love that!!!!!  I love that he felt bad about making her feel bad and that he knew he needed to fix it!

"Well," I say, "you could pat her on the back and say 'sorry I hurt your feelings, I really want to keep playing,' and see what she says."

"Okay," he says.  I hear him go straight up to his friend and use those very words to solve his problem.  The play resumed and I haven't seen anybody in a while.  Sounds like everyone is having a good time in there...

I am proud of this.  I am so glad to have the faith to plug away at encouraging  my kids to get along and problem solve with each other.  Having a connection with your kids is so crucial in parenting, I am learning and trying to help my children understand (through experiences like these) that connecting with each other is the key to enjoying time with siblings and peers.  And when they stand face to face, engaged in authentic problem solving, they are seeing each other as fellow human beings, and they are so much more likely to treat each other as such.

Don't get me wrong.  I have to white knuckle it home sometimes as my kids bicker in the backseat, and doors have been known to slam at our house.  But this is balanced with experiences like this afternoon.  I never expect to have kids who get along all of the time, that is just not realistic.  But that doesn't mean that they can't learn some skills, we all can.