My identical twins started kindergarten in separate classrooms this fall. This was encouraged by the school and child psychologists alike because it’s meant to help them develop their own identity and foster friendships. I do not see this being an issue, but still I had no problem with it.
During back-to-school night, a classmate’s parent approached me. Apparently during the first week of school, her daughter, Mia (name has been changed), received negative comments about her ethnic lunch from another kid in class. I could tell this mom was upset, so I listened attentively, but pointed out that her daughter handled the mean comments beautifully. She said, “My mom makes the best lunches.” As for me, I would personally love an authentic bento box made with a dash of motherly love.
Nevertheless, this mom asked if I could have my daughter, Ilana, who is in Mia’s class, play with Mia at recess. This seemed like a simple request, so I said, “Yeah, sure. I’ll talk to her.”
The same night, I approached Ilana and asked if she could play with Mia on the playground at school. She nodded. Simple enough, right?
Well, my meddling had a terrible after effect. Turns out, recess is the only time during the school day that my identical twins can interact and play together. Recess was their time together and my meddling messed with it.
The next day, Ilana’s identical twin, Miriam, was left out while Ilana and Mia played together. This was understandably upsetting for Miriam.
Now I can hear all the perfect parents clucking, “They should all play together!” Let me tell you, three is a tough playgroup number, and I see this first-hand with my three daughters all the time. Also, haven’t I meddled enough?!
The next night, Miriam was crying about not playing with her sister at recess. I was trying to offer support and suggestions to play with other kids, but to no avail. Then Ilana said, “I have a great idea! Why don’t you grab one of my arms, Mia holds the other and you both pull on me. Whoever pulls me over to them gets to play with me that day!” With this, she physically demonstrated what this would look like by holding her arms out and leaning side to side to mimic getting pulled back and forth.
Watching my 5-year-old mimic a tug-o-war with her as the rope was a sobering parenting moment for me. My meddling created a rift between two sisters who were enjoying recess without issue. Why the hell did I get involved?!
So, I changed course and said, “Ilana, you play with whoever you want to play with at recess, forget about what I asked you to do. Mia can tell you if she wants to play with you herself.”
The next day, sisters were reunited, and all was well in the sisterhood. I don’t know how Mia — or more importantly, Mia’s mom — felt about this. Also, I really don’t care because it’s up to Mia’s mom to guide her kid rather than engage as playground matchmaker with me.
Kids need to navigate social issues on their own. My involvement blew up in my face with unexpected casualties (my other daughter).
The next time a parent approaches me to give a social directive to one of my kids I will simply say, “You can talk to your kid, but I’m not going to meddle.”