Ellie and Stephanie have discovered a new friend--a six year old girl named Leyna--just over our back fence. I should say "through our back fence," because we peeled off two boards so the girls could pass through it rather than precariously clamber over the top. Ellie went over the first time by herself, but Stephanie could not, resulting in tears of heartbreak. Leyna invited them both, so we all walked around the block...but I had to stay because the girls couldn't walk it alone on such a busy road. The fence hole seemed a better idea. Alas, it is hard to regulate. They are through it at a moment's notice, usually without asking us. We've never had immediate access to a friend like this before, so I'm hoping once the novelty wears off a bit, it will be easier for them to follow some ground rules.
Leyna has presented a new parenting challenge for us. She has an older brother and no younger siblings. This is very obvious in how she speaks. She vacillates between being kind and taunting. When I called Ellie to me for taunting Stephanie, she only came after several requests (making me most irritated) and then loudly announced, "I'll come but I won't listen because this is going to be BORING." Ahem. Another time, I overheard Leyna telling Ellie that she didn't have to listen to me, they could just go to her (Leyna's) house and do whatever they want. Stephanie reports they go in Leyna's pantry and get lots of snacks when her mom isn't watching.
While my first instinct is to nip this friendship in the bud (grrr!), I know that is not the answer. I cannot always control who their friends will be, nor should I. Leyna is a nice girl and her parents seem like nice people. I can visualize everything she has done or said to raise my hackles is something she has seen or heard from her older brother and his friends. She is just far more typical of kids this age than any of the friends we already have. By sending our girls to a private, philosophy-based school, the pool of behaviours we witness is significantly altered from the mainstream (typically, parents at our school have chosen to parent off the grid). I think there's also the issue that Ellie is getting older now, and kids this age are less under direct parental influence than they were a year or two ago. Kids this age behave as they believe they should, which is not necessarily how their parents believe they should (philosophy-based or not). I don't want our girls to be unable to socialize with "normal" kids but I don't want them to adopt undesirable behaviours either. Time to break out some parenting books...
The girls spent the bulk of the day playing quite happily with Leyna on Friday, passing frequently through the fence to play in one house or the other. I sewed the morning away and Markus rested as much as he could tolerate (engineers don't idle well). Friday afternoon brought on a host of miserable behaviours (see above paragraphs), so we shifted into family-time mode for the late afternoon. The pattern of Saturday was much the same, so Markus and I agreed Sunday needed to be family-only. We patrolled the hole in the fence like hawks (not very fun) and then went out for the afternoon. Behaviours were markedly more normal. Whew.
Ellie's stress levels seem very high lately, and we've been getting a lot of backtalk, a lot of rudeness. She is throwing whooper tantrums again. She loses her cool with Stephanie. She has taken to sneaking treats from the pantry, getting up extremely early in the morning (around 5am) to do so. I caught her red-handed on Saturday morning (even Markus the early riser was still asleep), and she was so embarrassed she ran back to her room, curled up under her covers and silently cried as I stroked her hair. Poor mite. This is not to say these things happen all the time (though I suspect the treat-sneaking does), but the increase in crazy is noticeable to us. We think this is part of a new phase of her development and behaviours she is being exposed to through other kids, and again it's a reminder that we need to adjust our parenting strategy.