Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Look Who's Cliquish Now -- By Laura Houston

I’ve done it. I’ve gone and joined a clique. I’m not proud of it, but there you have it. I hate cliques because they make people feel left out and unwelcome. I wish I could say this was not true with the clique I am in, but it’s not. No one in our clique wants anyone to feel alienated or unworthy, but we have been known to wince when a mother on the playground comes up and slips one of us a card and asks to join us next time.

All of the kids in our clique are very active, very alpha, very dominate children who have created a dynamic where they play very well together. As mothers, we have all come to an understanding that children behave very much like dogs at this age. Our toddlers are protective of their toys. If they detect weakness, they push for dominance. They are territorial, so whomever’s home we are having a play date in, it’s understood that child may have a tough time with others touching his toys, and not a mother among us would criticize or judge a child for that.

We know our toddlers are not bad kids. Yes. Sometimes they bite each other. Sometimes they hit each other. Usually when a toy is involved. And the mothers in my clique have a keen sense of awareness as to when to step in and when to let them work it out.

It took months of training for this clique to solidify. The kids had to learn boundaries and test them. They also learned how to say sorry and how to give hugs. Sure. Sometimes it takes a timeout before someone is ready to apologize, but anyone watching this group of kids will see them pick one another off the floor when they fall, they’ll see a lot of sharing, and affection from one toddler to another.

So when other mothers see our kids behaving this way on the playground, they want to join in hopes it will rub off on their kids. The clique begrudgingly obliges. And usually what happens is the mother shows up with her two-year old son dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, or their daughter dressed in her princess clothes, and the unsuspecting kid gets mowed over by our five vigorous toddlers. Soon the mother is casually bringing up parenting techniques such as non-punitive discipline or whether or not saying “no” to your child will make him or her aggressive.

At this point stiffness runs through the spines of the mothers in the clique. We don’t believe in feeling guilty for how we mother our children and how they behave due to their own inherent personality. We don’t like to second-guess ourselves or our children. If we did that, our toddlers would run right over us. We are strict and rigid sometimes and soft and yielding at others, and we pick and choose when we want to be one or the other.

What I find so odd as I try to expand my social circle is that not many moms feel this way. They look for hard, fast rules that will establish order and peace and perhaps lends an air of security or superiority. To them I say, “Yeah, good luck to ya.”

So whether it goes against my social mores, I am sticking to my clique. I love the freedom of parenting without being judged, I like to see my boys learn social skills such as standing up for themselves, and I feel secure in knowing they test boundaries and set boundaries in a safe, fun, nurturing environment. And, no, I don’t want anyone to come in and change that. I especially don’t want to see the look of horror on a mother’s face when my son Lyle is playing with a maraca and decides that Wyatt’s unsuspecting forehead might make a nice percussion instrument. In turn Wyatt tests Lyle’s balance and the power of gravity by shoving his brother backwards into the toy box. Because I know that as soon as both of them finish the tears, they will be back to playing as always, and Lyle will think long and hard about using his brother’s forehead for anything but kisses.

This is how they learn, and as hard as it is to watch at times, it’s pretty darn effective. And it’s a huge relief to me to be surrounded by other mothers who feel the same way. So, no, I don’t want anyone else to come and upset that balance. I’ll learn to live with myself for being in a clique and being cliquish. And hope other mothers understand.


Blogger Robin Gorman Newman said...

Good for you Laura! I so remember those day of parks and sandboxes, etc. when my son was little. At age 8, we now do drop off playdates, so the dynamic is entirely different. I do have a high consciousness of who he plays best with, how they play, the manners of the other kids, etc. in arranging playdates. But, it ultimately becomes more about the kids chemistry than that of the moms, and in that sense, it's a bit of a relief since I often found it challenging to find kids my son played well with, in addition to moms I was compatible with.

Enjoy what you have created....treasure it...and stand your ground! You and your kids deserve it.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I wouldn't say you joined a clique...I would say you found a group of Mom friends with whom you bond very well with and kids who can take a little rough and tumble now and then! Consider yourself lucky!!

2:35 PM  

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