Speaking of the littlest bully, I need to get vulnerable and spend a moment talking about some heavier-hitting Down syndrome stuff. I promise I'll finish the week out with a light n' fluffy dresser reveal to balance us out.
I don't know how to start this out gracefully, so I'm just going to jump right in. My sister-in-law came out for a playdate yesterday with her five children ages 1-9, and Abigail and her cousins did not jive very well. Abigail gets home from preschool, tired (and therefore more likely to misbehave) and finds a house full of cousins all playing with her toys. After she spends a few minutes warming up, she jumps right in to play, but finds herself completely shut out. The older kids are circled up around Abigail's toys with their backs to her. On one hand, it really hurts to see my baby completely shut out, ignored, rejected. But on the other hand, I totally get where her cousins are coming from: Abigail is not an easy playmate. She rampages their carefully designed forests and horse pens, grabs prized baby pigs, usually throws foxes and owls. Abigail barely imaginative plays and doesn't have much interest in many toys. She wants their attention and their attention is on the forest friends playset, so she ends the forest friends playset.
But when she gets shut out of the circle of fun, she doesn't give up trying to get their attention. When her attempts to read Curious George books with them failed, she turned toward patting, hitting, and bopping on the head with books (Abigail escalates things quickly - an impulse control thing we're working on). At first the kids think it's funny - which encourages Abigail to do it more - but once it turns to hair pulling, they get angry and dramatically burst into sobs. It becomes a vicious cycle: the more they ignore and try to get away from Abigail, the more dramatic she becomes in trying to get their attention.
I'm so torn. It hurts to see Abigail so obviously rejected. But she's acting in a way to encourage rejection. It's so frustrating to demonstrate to Abigail time and time again proper interactions and see her fail to act them out. But it's also maddening to see her cousins flip out when Abigail - who is only two inches taller than their one-year-old brother - swats them or see them edge up closer to Abigail when I just finished separating them. Arg! Aside from screaming at everyone to knock it off and grow the $*%& up, (which I obviously didn't do), I don't know how to handle the situation.
My sister-in-law handled her kids marvelously, encouraging them to incorporate Abigail, pat her gently when she pulls their hair to break the cycle, be creative in how they play so that she will feel included and stop the hitting. I mean seriously, she's referencing saints and talking about maturity in a way kids can totally access. But at the end of the day, they're 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, and want attention when they are unjustly bopped on the head with a book.
I have no idea how much of this is normal toddler behavior (three-year-olds will be three-year-olds) and Abigail is usually at her worst after preschool (we had to cut out her nap in order to go to the afternoon session) and how much is because in certain ways, she really is different. It hurts when the misunderstood bully is your own child. And it hurts when you know this is only the beginning of the pain. I wish my girls were closer in age - a sister would be a spectacular ambassador, understanding of what Abigail's motivations are and able to demonstrate to the group how to handle her maladaptive ways of expressing herself.
Bleh. If you have advice for me, I'd totally love to hear it. Or, if you could just say a prayer for us for wisdom that we can help Abigail navigate the world, and maybe that her cousins show some forgiveness toward her. Maybe I need to create some sort of team-building exercise where, in order to win, her cousins have to work with Abigail. Oh geeze.