So today was the first day back at school and it was a cold and drizzly day. I was running late so I drove to school to collect the kids. When I got there boy child quickly handed over his music bag and clarinet saying he had something more important to do and promptly dragged a few lego pieces from his pocket. As soon as he saw me look at the Lego, he hung his head and handed them over . Now I am quite often a pretty free-range parent and the kids get heaps of freedom but the rules I have I stick to. One of the rules I have is that Lego doesn’t get taken out of the house.
When boy-child first started school he made a new friend. This boy was in his class but in the grade above him, and almost 2 years older than my boy. This seemed to make little difference, they were great friends and spent much of their time playing with Bionicles. I could see how important they were too him so I let him take Bionicles to school. I justified it by saying they weren’t real Lego and that I didn’t want to play with them anyway so I wasn’t going to get too upset if he lost pieces. (If real Lego were lost I would be upset – I LOVE Lego!)
At the end of the boy’s first year at school, he and the other boy were in different classes and had very little to do with each other for the next two years. This year however, they are friends again but this time round I am not so happy about it. I have watched their interactions and can feel subtle undertones of manipulation. My boy is very eager to please and easily led. Whilst he dosen’t have truck loads of friends, he is friendly with many kids but when he is friends with this boy, he has no other friends. It is as if he is only allowed to be friends with this one boy and only him.
Anyway, back to the story. Boy-child handed over the Lego he knew he wasn’t to have at school and then sulkily moved away from me. When girl-child arrived out in the play ground he refused to walk with us. He threatened to no come home but slowly followed us to the car. When I asked him if he wanted to walk home to have time to think he said he was thinking now and didn’t want to walk. He threw his bag to the ground and hid behind a tree to ‘think’. I realised that it was more than just me temporarily confiscating his Lego that was making him angry.
When we got home he was still simmering with rage and didn’t want to discuss it. I let it go until after dinner at which point he said he would talk to me about it, but only me and only if we were upstairs. The conversation unfolded just as I expected it to, with boy-child telling me he was angry at me for taking his Lego away. He also said he was angry at himself because he knew that he wasn’t allowed to take Lego to school. We were off to a great start. When I asked him why he took the Lego to school even though he knew he wasn’t allowed to, things got a little messy. He tried to explain to me that if he didn’t have any Lego to play with he wouldn’t have any friends. He explained that he didn’t have anyone to play with at the end of first term because I wouldn’t let him take Lego to school. (Feeling like mum of the year at this point!) He said that his best friend wouldn’t play with him if he didn’t play Lego and that the other kids that play with him wouldn’t be allowed to play with him either. He didn’t want to have no one to play with at school again.
How do you explain to an 8 year old that a person who is going to exclude you from games because you don’t have the right toy to play with really isn’t your friend? I couldn’t come up with a decent answer.
We talked about when they used to play Bionicles at school and boy-child explained that he would take extra Bionicles to share just in case someone else didn’t have one to play with (I had wondered why his school bag was full of Bionicles). He knows that his desire to share is a part of being friendly but he doesn’t understand why other kids wouldn’t share. I don’t understand why other kids don’t share either. I really hope that he can see that his best friend is only his friend when he is doing exactly as he is told, that their friendship is based on the other boy getting what he wants, when he wants it.
We talked about what the other kids that he spends time with and what they do at school and apparently most of them take Lego to school. The only strategy we could come up with is for him to take a 2 square ball to school and try to find someone else to play with. It isn’t much of a strategy but it is all we can come up with. I hope that the Lego bug passes quickly and we can move on. I see more Bionicle buying on eBay as an antidote.