Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Food Chain

He may only be 10 months old but when it comes to how my son plays with other children, size matters.

Lately we've had a number of what we'll call "playdates." I use the quotation marks because, let's call a spade a spade, the kids don't really play together. It's more of a chance for us mommies to get together.

The children my son has met have ranged in age from 3 years to 2 months. Some have been the same age and others just a few months difference.

What has resulted is an interesting study in human behavior. And the possibility that my son could potentially grow up to be a bully. I have seen the future and it involves a lot of discipline.

When it came to playing with babies his own age, my son pretty much ignores the other kids. Well, they all ignore each other as they crawl around exploring, going through other people's purses, attempting to stick their fingers in electrical sockets and so on.

Exposure to much younger babies in the two to four month range was a bit of a scarier experience. He was fascinated by these tiny creatures who were actually smaller than him. He wanted to touch them, grab their feet, their hair (such as it is) and trample them. Then when he determined that he is, in fact, bigger and stronger, in a final act of showing off, he let out a bloodcurdling scream in the babies' faces. Fortunately at that young age, the smaller babies aren't bothered by those loud noises. So their reactions are the best - they simply stare my son down as if to say "What do you want, you big bully?"

The older kids, on the other hand, were a whole different ballgame. Independent, strong, able to play with more complicated toys and not super interested in younger babies, these kids are definitely good role models for my little guy. He knew better than to mess with them too. He checked them out from a distance, decided he was no match for the mighty 3-year-old and then quietly played alone or with me. Ahhhh what a relief.... No policing required!

Then there was that one disaster date in which my son terrorized an 8-month-old boy. Deep sigh. I really thought that since they were only two months apart it would go much smoother. I seriously underestimated the difference that two months makes in a baby's life. This child was just a bit smaller than my son, so naturally my son asserted himself by pawing at him and screaming in the other kid's face. At 8 months of age, this baby (who was also clearly more docile than my little monster) was also in the throes of separation anxiety. So naturally he cried every time my son the bully came near him. In my son's defense, he was excited and interested in this new, somewhat smaller, person. However, the way in which he demonstrated his excitement was a little scary and overbearing. Unfortunately there's not much you can do to control the behavior of a 10-month-old, besides prying him away from the other kid and telling him "Be gentle, sweetie. We don't scream at our friends." Meanwhile, we all know those words were more for my friend's benefit so she doesn't think I'm a terrible, unfit mother. I just hope the experience didn't leave her son with any permanent damage.

If there's anything to be learned from my recent experiences, it's this. Always play with older kids!

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