Mother Seeking Advice

I had a small list of things I wanted to touch base on next week all lighthearted and fun, but alas, I find myself here before all of you seeking some advice.
The girls started the day jazzed for their first sleep over friend, their cousin Freckles.  I don’t think I can even count how many times they requested a time check this morning. Finally, she arrived and we set about having a fun-tastic day. Things went swimmingly at first, as they usually do. Eventually the tide turned and it did so in a way that I have been observing more and more over the last few months. I suppose being home now has allowed me the opportunity to be more present.
Freckles wanted to play with Bear.  Just Bear.  ….Ouch….
At first my anger flared a little (as I said, I had watched this before) and I did what I thought was best at the time and marched us all back inside.  If we couldn’t all play nicely together outside, then maybe it was time for a change of activity.
But is was only moments after moving inside that I had Baggins sobbing in my lap again.  I asked her what was wrong, already dreading the answer, and she looked right at me with her puffy red eyes and tear streaked face and said, “I think Amber came here to only play with Addi.  They don’t want me to play with them”.  Right then, my heart broke in a million little pieces.  I know that feeling and now to top it off I know the pain of being the ineffectual mother- a completely helpless role.  I don’t know that there is any feeling worse than being a mother unable to take away the suffering of her child.
I know, I know, it isn’t my job to prevent these things from happening.  Happen they will.  But I always thought I’d in one way or another have the power of magic kisses.  To be able to say just the right thing to make things a little better.  But all I had for this stricken, lonely young girl was a mumbled “I’m so sorry” and a hug.  Nothing that made it feel any better.  Nothing that made her feel wanted.  Nothing that made her feel less alone amongst her peers.
And after I managed to comfort her I was left with the fact that this was a situation I clearly didn’t know how to handle.  After all, Baggins has had this problem for some time now.  We first heard about it at daycare when one of the children refused to play with Baggins because she didn’t like her dress or her hair wasn’t cute enough or she couldn’t run fast enough, etc. Eventually we changed daycare and assumed it was behind us.  But at the next daycare home we saw the same dynamic setting up- Bear was in and Baggins was out, left to play with the younger kids/babies. This continued dynamic eventually led to us searching out a daycare center where the girls had options upon options of kids to play with and where no one ever had to be left out.  I heard no more about it.
That is until I started staying home and began to observe it when we went to Kindergym or the mall and played with strangers or when we went elsewhere and played with friends.  Always the same; Bear’s in and Baggins’s out.
I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what it is.  Is it personality traits- Bear is very “go with the flow”, though Baggins never seems to disagree with a friend and never is rude.  Is is just something as simple as their looks- Bear has longer hair and dresses more girly most days.  But then it occured to me that it didn’t really matter why.  After all, I’m not even entertaining the idea of changing one thing about Baggins.  She is the most affectionate, empathetic, sweet and compassionate young girl.  She is genuinely amazed by life and loves to share her discoveries and is incredibly smart.  No, she is definitely not the issue and changing her is not an alternative. I mean, just look at her…
The issue is how do I help her (and perhaps her sister some day) deal with these feelings of exclusion? They’ve always had a built in playmate they’ve never had to share.  How do I teach them the value of alone time? How do I teach them the importance of including others? How do I teach them to pick themselves up and hold their heads high after rejection? Especially when the rejection is repeated?  How do I teach them that self worth is not based on being included in every game? These are the questions I need help with.
I know that I can simply change the activity and find a game or something that everyone can play.  That I can better plan sleepovers in the future, etc.  But it really isn’t that simple.  If you’ve ever been the kid (or even grown up) that has felt excluded, different, less than, well then you know what I mean.  Those things, those feelings are still there even once the activity has been changed and if you’re smart like Baggins is smart than you know that their hand was forced and your sadness still lingers.
I spent a couple years in therapy during school to learn to counteract those demons inside my head that told me everyone was laughing at me, that I wasn’t good enough or that I was too different.  I don’t want that for my daughters.  So how do I prevent it?
So, mothers of multiples, multiples yourself, former fat kids, nerds, dweebs, loners, mothers & fathers of kids who are bullied or former kids that were bullied, hell, maybe even a reformed bully or two please send me some words of wisdom.  I need them today.

6 Responses

  1. This makes my heart hurt. I wish I knew the answer. Give Lili and Addi and big fat hug for me… that picture of Lili’s new haircut gets me EVERY time. I just love her (and Addi) so much!

    Lori

  2. Anonymous

    Oh my word, this is like reading MY life story. Was Lili also the newborn who did much better have being moved in with Addi in the incubator so they could be touching? (At 5 days of age my mother put me at one end of the crib and sister at the other end, sister immediately fell asleep, and I wriggled and worked myself all the way across the crib to get next to sister, and then fell asleep). Lili’s story is my story. I have an identical twin sister, she was always the one with friends, and I was always the one watching them play, being excluded, etc. I was always either completely by myself or playing with kids much younger or older than I was. My twin would even go so far as to “steal” my friends/the kids who played with me when we were young. My parents never stepped in or corrected twin, friends, or brothers to include me: for my parents prefer my twin…to this day, I have no clue why: she has always been the complete trouble maker and I am forever the quiet, helpful one. I have to say, I give you kudos and a giant hug for being a Mom who cares about this. I wish I had a quick and easy answer. I wish I could say, “this fixes it.” But I don’t. And for sure, this is not just a “twin” thing. My son is 6, is incredibly intelligent and good to the core and he has trouble making friends. His gifted and talented teacher said he “doesn’t like to conform” and I say, “bravo”. I am currently reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown and it is a godsend. We need to teach ourselves and our children about authenticity and not constantly hustling for approval, there will always be people who don’t like us ‘just because’. We cannot live our lives being a chameleon to fit in. What sort of activities does Lili like, that Addi doesn’t necessarily enjoy? If possible, enroll Lili in some classes or things so she can embrace and foster her own identity. Addi always “going with the flow” may seem like it works now, but what about when she’s older and goes with the flow and ends up regretting it? When the girls start kindergarten, make sure they are in separate classrooms. That way the other kids and teacher won’t compare your girls and they are more free to be separate people, rather than , “oh, you are the twin.” The world needs people like Lili in it. So you are absolutely correct, do not change anything about her. Make sure Lili has her own things she can fall back on, toys or art supplies or books. Just b/c she’s not playing with the kids doesn’t means she can’t still be having a good time. And then some of the other kids might come over to find out what she is doing and she can share with them. I bet if Lili ever noticed a kid hurt or lonely, she’d be the first one to run over and offer friendship. I still struggle with all of this to this day, but I have learned that my worth and my happiness are not dependent on other people. I need to do the things that interest me and bring me joy…even if that means I am doing those things myself. One day she’ll click with someone with similar interests. My guess is that Addi is an extrovert and Lili is an introvert, so the social thing will always be a little bit of a challenge for Lili. Hopefully Addi will find the compassion to start including her sister, for at least part of playdates, but Lili then needs to know she is special just the way she is and to go do something that she enjoys. Both my husband and I are introverts, Lili will find one or 2 close friends in her life but she probably won’t be the life the party, and that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with her. Give her a hug from me!

    ~Abby

  3. Thank you, Abby! I always love hearing from you. You provide such a unique experience for me. It’s like speaking to my girls in the future… Does that make any sense?

    I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences, but I appreciate your advice. I really do. And yes, Lili is the twin that did better once she was placed with her sister. She is also the kiddo that seems to need more one on one time, more reassurance, and beams whenever you compliment her.

    I don’t know that she’s really developed any special interests yet that her sister isn’t also into, but she does have a love (an patience) with drawing that I think we could definitely connect on. I have some ideas forming.

    I know you said that no one ever intervened, but do you think it would have helped if they did? My worry is that if I do she will know that she is being played with out of pity/force or that the other kids will retaliate by making her be the “sucky” role in the game. Does that just sting more? I’m torn on that one…

    Yes, we plan to separate them in kindergarten. This is one of the reasons I decided not to homeschool despite pressure from my husband. I think they need the space that school will provide that I cannot.

    Thanks again, Abby!

  4. Anonymous

    Hi Kelly! That’s such a tough one about intervening. It’s so hard being a unique kid! And really hard being a twin. That being said, I absolutely believe that kids need to be guided with socialization, compassion, and empathy, Addi may eventually tune in to her sister’s need/wish to be included. Or not, she may need to be reminded separately beforehand, that the playdate is for Lili too. You can encourage joint play, but I guess don’t force it–that’s awkward for all involved!! I feel her pain, and your’s for how to help in this situation.

    Be her cheerleader, but let her find her way through this. Remind her how much you enjoy her and all of her wonderful qualities.

    Thank you for sharing your journey with your girls! 🙂

    -Abby

  5. Anonymous

    *guided in learning compassion, etc.

    Sorry, to succinctly answer your question, I think in your own home, playdates need to be joint and Addi should include her sister in play in your home when other kids are over…there is not much worse than being rejected in your own home, your safe place to be who you are without judgement. Are you be ok w/ the girls going separately to their friends homes and do something special one-on-one with the girl at home? That allows for autonomy and special social time for each, and me & Mom time!…

    I think that’s what I would do…
    See, I don’t even know the right answer! Did you ask Lili how she would like to journey through her current playmate situation? She’s bright, she may have your answer in her own head and heart!

    -Abby

  6. I have no answers other than to offer the comfort of knowing that eventually all of us former dweebs and loners find the place where we fit. We find the people that get us and we value it all the more because we will always remember the pain of being the one left out. It might hurt and totally suck right now (and possibly in years to come) but those soul mates are waiting for her, ready to make her laugh and feel like the queen of the world.