I have a theory that the best place for children to experience personal failures and the harder life lessons is among friends. When the girls were younger, we would have our friends over for dinner to give them practice with their manners. Then when we would go to a restaurant they would know what was expected of them. I remember having dinner with friends and their child was having a particularly hard day. He was having a hard time sitting still. He spilled his drink. He did not like the food he ordered. He was five. I had been in the exact same situation and still am on many occasions. I smiled at my friend and said there is no better place to keep practicing, than with understanding friends.
Something happened today that make me recall that afternoon. I have been giving my girls greater freedom in walking unsupervised to our neighbors house. They can walk and ride their bike around the neighborhood. They can run back and forth from friend to friend since we all live on the same block. Today my girls were playing outside and somehow rocks were thrown. As my daughter tells it, she was “told” to throw a rock. She made the choice to throw it, and it landed in the front grill vent of my friend’s car. She came home to tell me, against the wishes of the person who told her to throw the rock.
While I was gathering my thoughts, I commended her on telling me what happened. I can always help her work through a situation if I know what is going on. I asked her if she got a funny feeling in her belly when she made the choice to throw a rock in the street. She said she did. I told her that is her conscience. When I am not around, it tells her right from wrong. While she was not aiming at the car (or anyone’s property), her aim was off and rather than landing in the street, she hit the car. She knew it was a bad choice, yet she made it anyway. I told her to remember to always be strong enough to say no.
I explained that she must apologize for throwing the rock and hitting the car. Together we walked to my friend’s house and she rang the bell. She had been crying and she was scared because words do not always come easily to her. We practiced what to say on the two minute walk over. She apologized and her apology was graciously accepted.
When it was over, I told her it is better to learn these lessons with friends. I showed her another car parked ten feet away from my friend’s. I told her if she hit that car instead, she would have to apologize to a stranger and that would be even harder for her to do. Friends are understanding. No damage was done. The rock will probably be under the car when he drives away. But hopefully through this event she learned several important lessons. I thank my friend for accepting her apology and giving validation to her words. If the situation is ever reversed, I hope their children learn some hard life lessons in the comfort of our circle of friends.
Have your circle of friends ever helped out with tricky life-lessons?