Thursday, October 02, 2014

The fuzzy line - social engineering

When I was a kid, our neighbor on one side was a grandmother whose granddaughter would visit every summer for a few weeks. I loved when Dani would come to town. We had a special kinship. As I got a bit older, my school friends would come over and we would have a group play. But my mom saw that friendship with Dani waning as the other girls would talk about school happenings, other friends, things that Dani didn't know about. So not all the time, but occasionally, and more towards the end of Dani's stay at her grandmother's each year, my mom would tell my other friends that they couldn't play with us. At first I told my mom it was rude. She told me that they were being rude persisting in talking about things that Dani didn't know about. It took me awhile to get that.

But gasp - she would turn them away! It was about intent though, she wasn't trying to exclude the other girls, she was trying to protect and foster inclusiveness with Dani. But I can see how a mom on the sidelines would have seen this as my mom trying to social engineer my friendships or not be inclusive to their girls.

This morning I read a nice blog post about the social engineering of girl's friendships at that vulnerable time in their lives (mostly tween). The author gave pretty extreme examples - or maybe it is just because my daughter isn't to that point yet that made them seem extreme! (Like a mom sneaking onto a bus and securing seats so one posse of girls could sit together and telling other girls they couldn't sit with them.)

I thought the author made a number of excellent points, but I did quibble a bit when reading. In order to combat the social engineering and to foster an everyone is welcome concept, the author decided to start having large parties, where everyone is invited. Wonderful! Super! I got an inkling that she was aiming at "can't always do that all the time", but she didn't really say it. My impression was that it would go too far against her main point.

I would love to invite everyone over all the time. But it is not feasible for my house, my family, nor my wallet. There are times I want to have one family over. Or two families over. Or 5. I have made the decisions to limit the number of people invited over for any occasion based upon what I can mentally handle as an introvert, or who we may have things we want to chat about with, or it's our turn to host, or the food I have for dinner will only feed one (or two) more families.

We are planning our annual Halloween party and we are being forced to make cuts. I just don't have the space or the ability to be a good host with an unlimited invite list. And in order to have organized kids games, I can't include everyone my kids want to invite. It sucks. But I have to say, "I am sorry we can't invite her". I wish I had another option, but I am not renting a warehouse.

I wish I was in the mood to open my house all the time. But I am not. And I don't expect my kids to be either. The line has to be drawn and people, including other kids, will at times feel excluded and I am sorry for that. But it is life. My kids have felt excluded at times as well - we have a variety of friends and they by all means should get together without us. It used to bother my kids to hear about it - which they did because kids talk, but we taught them over the years that they don't need to be involved in everything. Just because you weren't included doesn't mean they don't like you, it means there are limits in life, which frankly, is reality. And at their ages, it doesn't seem to bother them so much anymore.

So anyways. I don't think the author's point was that we should include everyone all the time. But I think it bears mentioning that we also shouldn't feel bad about extending invitations to what is only within our reach for whatever reason. I was one of the kids on the outside, I know how it feels, it isn't my intention to do that to another child. I think it is important to distinguish our intents. Are we being hurtful in excluding, if so, we must step back.

So flipping the coin - we have a neighbor two doors up with a daughter Skadi's age. They were in kindergarten together. We speak to them on occasion when out and about, they have set foot in our house. But the girls can't play.

We have new neighbors on one side with a second grade daughter and she and her kindergarten cousin come over regularly and play. On the other side are grandparents with a kindergarten grandson and second grade granddaughter who are also over regularly. Add in another kindergartener two doors down. It is a great afternoon when there are seven kids out running between the four houses. My extrovert daughter thrives.

But down one more house is that family with a 2nd grader who isn't allowed to play. I feel bad for her. She has to see the six kids out running amuck and laughing and squealing. But her mom won't let her out the door to play.

Despite this, I did keep sending my daughter up, "why don't you see if Sarah wants to join in too?" And Skadi goes and knocks on the door and returns solo. I used to send her up once a week. It is more like once a month now.

But recently my daughter came back and said, "Sarah's mom is mean."

I am thinking she is a bit odd (aren't we all) and overprotective and might have some mental issues, but I ask why she is mean?

"Well she just opens the door and yells 'NO!' at me before I can even ask if Sarah can play with us," Skadi tells me.

That pisses me off. Don't yell at my child for trying to be inclusive of all the second grade girls on our street!

So we have quit asking Sarah to play as of this week because I will not force my daughter to interact with an adult who doesn't respect her enough to even be kind. And heaven help me if I ever hear that Sarah "isn't included".

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