R. has turned four just few months ago. The leap came with a lot of new skills: she learned to bike without training wheels, and I can even trust her on the streets; she started playing by herself or with her friends in the common garden of our block; we are even having full-length pleasant conversations. Now more than ever she looks like an independent little woman to me. Her new independence means also she faces new situations without me or her dad by her side. Several happened in the past weeks and I felt panic growing in me. I don’t feel ready for this new phase!
Once she was playing in the playground in front of our house. Her best friend’s brother – 6 years old – came along with a friend and told her to approach. He said something to her, leaving her distressed. Her dad noticed and asked her what he said, but she refused to repeat it. “It’s a really bad word, dad.”. In the evening I took some time alone with her, asking if she wanted to tell me what happened. “He told me A.” – her best friend – “said I was stupid“. She paused and continued looking down: “Maybe he was just nervous when he said that about me.“. First mama bear reaction in my mind was something like “I am gonna cut your bike’s wheels, you little $##[@”!“. I calmed down the storm inside me and explained to her it was only a bad joke on his side and not to believe it. Few days later I found her and A. loudly chanting curse words – not the worst ones, but still – around the playground. Again, we sat down and discussed why it’s impolite to do so. In the past few weeks, once or twice she complained about how she was dressed for school, going all “My friends will say this and that“. That was the first time she was worried about what other people would think of her appearance.
Those few happenings were enough to throw me into panic mode. When she was younger and her dad and I went both back to work, we realised she started having a life we didn’t have access to, as opposite to the previous months, when we had total control over how she spent her time. This new phase is similar, but much worse. Now I realised she’s having full interactions with other kids – sometime older – and I will maybe know 10% of what will happen to her. She will be hurt. How can I help her navigate through this? Rationally I am aware I should keep the dialogue open and help her build the right skills to face such situations herself… but emotionally it’s really hard to let go and trust that everything will be alright. I know it’s all natural. I know kids can be mean and I even know maybe she’ll act mean herself sometime. Still… hard for a mama bear like myself. Her dad and I can do only that much, the rest will be watching this little woman grow.