In other respects, Patience (and this other girl) are basically good and nice little kids. Left unchecked, I'm sure this could develop into some norm, but I do not plan to leave this unchecked.
Thus far, unfortunately, my efforts have not been successful and in fact, over the last six months I've seen it escalate, and spread.
She's always been a prickly child with definitive personal boundaries---almost Victorian in her formality.
"Have we been properly introduced? I do not think so, therefore you must not speak to me."
"I do not hold with large, overt shows of emotion---unless they are my drama---but certainly not with undignified displays such as running to and hugging one exuberantly."
I was sometimes self-conscious picking up Patience because she never showed any sign of being glad to see me, and sometimes even said she was not ready for me to be there. The other children raced to their mothers with a joyful squeal and launched their bodies into Mom's arms for a huge hug.
I looked on the bright side: Patience was comfortable in her environment, I understood she transitioned hard, and I recognized her public shyness with personal displays.
I knew when we got home she'd be up for a long lap cuddle and elbow rub. I honestly don't need her to be any certain way.
But I do know that others judge, and expect a certain something from children that Patience won't give.
I have two Patience Rules:
1. Others must respect her boundaries.
2. She must respect other's feelings.
Number one is crucial to me because we send out mixed signals to children constantly about their bodies, and their obligation to use their bodies to make other people happy---what they owe with themselves and their bodies to others. It's way more complicated than anything that can be boiled down into one simple rule, but rule 1 is my first step towards teaching Patience that her Self is sacred, and nobody has a right to demand that she must sacrifice/compromise her Self to accomodate their adult preferences.
In tickle fights, stop means stop. If she doesn't care to run and hug or kiss family, I do not force it and don't let family force it either.
Close people have come to understand this---and why---and the times she does hug or cuddle mean a great deal. She needs a bit of time to become comfortable, and every time you see Patience, my super sensitive hyper aware girl, you start back at square one.
And that's where we hit number two. The world cannot bend around Patience. She must find a way to accomodate it and herself. Not grabbing and hugging Grandma because it makes her feel uncomfortable is okay, but she must nevertheless be kind and find a way to display her greeting and affection. So she has decided to run in and share her current favorite piece of knowledge or toy. Grandma understand this means, "HELLO! I love you!" in Patience-talk.
I expect kindness and politeness, courtesy and respect from my children. I offer it as a model and in return. I say please to them, thank you, and sorry, for example. I do my best to always display my awareness of them as sentient beings.
That's why Patience's current rudeness is so frustrating. And I know where it will lead which is why it is so heartbreaking.
I suppose one school of thought is to stand aside and let the natural consequences go to work, let her learn from that. I can't make her learn the lesson, but thus far I have been a more active participant, pointing out when something she did was not cool and letting her know okay things to do instead, or pointing out when she did something nice, doing little practice exercises, and trying to broaden her horizons---hoping that by doing so she'll ultimately take up the reins herself.
For example, at the beginning of the year, we changed her gymnastics class. One reason behind this was to take her out of class with her BFF and expose her to other children, with whom we hoped she'd make friends. No go. She has been staunchly, belligerantly opposed to being even remotely friendly, and has been downright rude at times, deeply hurting the feelings of another girl. We handled this with Patience.
But we have failed, failed, failed to have any positive effect thus far.
She is, at heart, a very sweet and kind little girl, who can be sensitive not only to herself, but to others. I just want to see more of that, and less Mean Girl.
I hope/have faith that we will get there in the long run. Which is, I hope, soon, and sooner rather than later because I know how these things have a habit of following you.
In the meantime, her father and I stay up way too late some nights, worrying ourselves about her behavior---which is across the board an issue, not just with friends---and how to address this. We review what we've done, think about options, and discuss it.
Little girl...oh little girl with a hot heat bubbling inside you, pushing you to do this. Are you scared or hurt, protecting yourself? Are you worried or anxious? Is the world simply confusing, frustrating you? Little girl, we love you.
I know today is Wednesday, Hump Day. I'll put up my own answer to the question with the Host Post.
EDITED WITH UPDATE: Since I have come to doing Hump Day Hmms every other week, and the deadline often seems burdensome to most, I have a suggestion: I put up the Hump Day Hmm "assignment" one week, and do the Host Post the following week. So assignment and post alternate weeks. This gives everyone a full 7 days (or so) to get around to it. How's that?
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert