We had my nephew over for the night last night.
There is something about three kids that means one of them is almost always going to be left out. When those three kids are Alyssa, Olivia and Jaxon…the one left out is Olivia.
She’s the one who doesn’t understand how to play with horses the way Alyssa and Jaxon does. She doesn’t get into stuffed animals the way they do.
When she suggests a game, they tell her they don’t want to play that.
It breaks my heart.
I know. I know they’re kids. I know I should let them work it out between them. I know I can’t make a ten year old and a five year old do what my six year old wants to do just because I know it would make her happy.
But I had a talk with Alyssa about it anyway. I gently pointed out that Olivia is always willing to do whatever Alyssa and Jaxon ask/tell her to do. She’s always willing to go along with whatever they want to do.
I asked Alyssa to just, a few times, go along with what Olivia suggests. I told her that if Olivia’s ideas are constantly shot down by her two favorite people (A and J) she might never get to the point where she suggested play ideas to her peers. I reminded Alyssa that this summer is about helping Olivia figure out how to make friends with her peers at school.
Alyssa nodded wisely and agreed to help her sister out. My girl is so, so sweet.
Later in the evening though, my heart took another blow.
We were all four on the couch. Alyssa made popcorn and she and Jaxon were eating it. Olivia moved over so she could reach for some too.
After Olivia had to move around Jaxon a couple of times to get some popcorn, Alyssa moved the bowl so it was easier for all three of them to reach the bowl.
Jaxon muttered, “Why do you even like her?”
I don’t know if Olivia even heard him. I don’t know if she got that he was talking about her even if she did hear him.
But I heard it. And I knew who he was talking about.
Alyssa heard it too and she looked at me to see my reaction.
The moment the words left his mouth, J knew what he’d said was wrong. He slid off the couch, his head down in a sulky pose and went across the room to sit.
I left A and O to their popcorn on the couch and joined J on the floor across the room. He refused to look at me when I asked him to tell me why he’d said that. He wouldn’t look up when I told him that what he’d just said was really, really mean.
Quietly, as gently as possible, I told him that Olivia loves him. He’s one of her very favorite people in the world and it would hurt her feelings a lot if she thought he didn’t like her.
I know he’s five. I know he’s an only child who is often very indulged. I get that five year old boys are immature but…I couldn’t just let it go.
I asked him if he understood that what he’d said was mean. He nodded, still not looking at me. He knew. I could tell he knew what he’d said was wrong.
I offered him my hand and told him to come back to the couch and have some more popcorn with the girls.
He accepted the peace offering and didn’t say or do anything else mean the rest of the night.
I know that kids are always growing, always learning. I hope and pray that that moment in time was a chance for J to learn to be kinder, more loving. I pray it wasn’t a moment in which Olivia learned that even the people she loves the most in the world will say and do things they know are hurtful.
I prayed about this last night and this morning. I know God has my back. I know He has Olivia’s. I know that with His strength, she and I can get through anything. Even a mean cousin who is only five and maybe just repeating something he heard from some other kid.
It really is hard to just let them work it out, though. Sometimes, I can’t not speak up. As O’s therapist pointed out, right now, I am her voice and when I’m around, I need to show her that I won’t let people be mean to her. I need her to know that as she finds her own voice, she can speak up too. I want her to learn to stand up for herself by watching me stand up for her and her sister.