Ruby, like most toddlers, is fascinated by BIG KIDS. She gets so excited when she sees an older child that she will frequently yell “BIG KID” at them with the hugest grin on her face. Yesterday when she woke up from her nap I told her we were going to the playground with the water and her first question was “big kids there? big girls?” The first time we went to that park, there were a couple of 9 year old girls there and Ruby spent a good deal of her time there chasing them and emulating them to the best of her ability.
I’ll pause here to say that in her fascination of big kids, she studies them, watches how they play and how their games work and then does her best to keep up with them and do what they do. It’s so freakin’ sweet and also a little hard to watch. Part of me beams with pride at how smart, friendly and outgoing she is and the insecure kid in me cringes when the big kids don’t pay her any attention or include her. Happily she doesn’t seem to really notice and just dives in and plays as hard as they do.
So back to yesterday after naptime… I get her out of her crib, she races to the door and yells ‘BIG GIRLLS!’ like she’s calling them out to come and play.
::died dead:: So cute.
So big kids? Yeah, she pretty much adores them. The problem is that they don’t always adore her. Some big kids are so sweet to her, others indifferent and still others are downright mean. On Tuesday before music class, we stopped in at Swork, which is a fantastic coffee shop in Eagle Rock with a blocked off play area. We had it to ourselves for a bit, but then a couple of big girls came in to play too. They were totally indifferent to Ruby’s presence. Just played around her. Not that stopped her from trying to be a part of the action.
When we got to the water park she was beside herself to go play with the big kids. There were A LOT of big kids yesterday. Most of them were running around and standing on the water fountains as they spurted up, which sucked because it meant the little kids couldn’t play in the water too. :/ But she played on and tried that trick too. She figured out that the game of the day was to run around to the different fountains as they spurted up (it’s random), so as the big kids did that, so did Ruby. Which meant she got knocked down a time or two. And dudes? That kid of mine is so freakin’ tough. She got clocked a few times – nothing rough, but she was on the ground. She didn’t even flinch. Just jumped up and kept running.
Eventually she got tired of the water play and wanted to swing. We did the swing-thing for a LONG time. I think she was wiped out from all that running around! When she was finally ready to get down, she wanted to go play in the play structure where a couple of 9 year old boys were busy pouring wood chips through the different chutes in the play structure. Ruby watched them for a few minutes, figured out what they were doing and dove right into help.
It’s always a little dicey for me to let her just jump in like that, especially with kids that old and especially with boys. But I really believe it’s important to let her have the experiences she wants to have in this regard. To be nearby if she needs me (ha!), but to be a bit hands off and let her sort herself out. Which she did beautifully.
And seriously, I wish I’d seen these boys’ moms because they were the nicest, sweetest, well-mannered kids I’ve come across in a long, long time. Neither of them even flinched that Ruby was nosing in on their game… one of them even said “hey cool, she’s helping!” They let her do stuff and completely included her in the game! She was in heaven.
Busy at work!
At one point, the three of them were putting the wood chips in a bowl that spins and one of the boys said to me “Um, we’re going to spin this really fast and the wood is going go everywhere… she might not like that, it might get in her eyes.” Right?? Right??? OH MY GOD. What a sweet boy. I seriously would have arranged a marriage right then and there… (ok not really.) Ruby was so happy – it was a great “big kid” experience!
Then today I decided to beat the heat with a trip to the indoor playground because, hello! Air-conditioning! As we headed over there, I talked to Ruby about meeting “new friends” by saying “hi” and being friendly. We get there and my girl is all smiles and waves, like a freakin’ pageant queen… She went up to every kid there with her big happy grin, waved at them and yelled “HI!” and then said “NEW FRIEND!” and looked me to make sure she was doing it right!
::she is seriously killing me with the cuteness lately::
But remember how I said some big kids are mean? Well, sadly, we had a run-in with a meanie who was so adverse to having Ruby sit next to her and occasionally pat her leg and say with great reverence “big kid” that she pushed Ruby away and yelled NO at her. Granted the girl was like, 4, but I was PISSED. With great restraint, I gave my usual “She just wants to play with you, she thinks you’re really cool” speech, to which the girl in question huffed and stalked away. Luckily her big sister was nicer and let Ruby play with her.
And really Ruby was unphased by the whole thing. It bugged me more than it bothered her… We’ve had this experience before at playgrounds and parks; big kids pushing these little ones away and yelling no at them. I mean, honestly, Ruby herself has been guilty of it a time or two with babies smaller than she is. It always makes me wonder why. I understand the boundary setting, the need to feel/test their power. But it still bums me out. Most of the time my little speech (and my presence) helps them to chill out and either be nicer and include Ruby or just go away. Sometimes I just pull Ruby out of the situation. When it’s Ruby not being as nice as she usually is, we talk about making new friends and kindness. I wonder what these kids’ parents say to them. (I’m not being bitchy or implying the mean kids have bad parents… I’m genuinely curious.) Because in our house, it’s never ok to push or hit. And if Ruby gets that at almost 2, shouldn’t a 4 year old get it too?
Anyway… are your toddlers as big kid obsessed? How do you deal with the meanies at the park? Where’s the line between letting your kid work it out for herself and stepping in?