Last week, Jack's school celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim. The kids all dress up like its Halloween and Jack, at his own request, went as a dog (which was supremely convenient since he was a dog for Halloween, as seen here with his brother, and we still had the costume). After school, we were talking about his day and Jack said his classmates said "nasty" things to him. I asked what kinds of things and he screwed up his face in mock evil and blurted out "Go away!" and "I don't like you!"
My heart sank. The thought of my little boy having his feelings hurt undoubtedly crushed me more than it crushed him. Of course, it's hard to tell exactly what is real and what is imagined at this age, but based on the specificity of Jack's story and the fact that he was clearly rattled, I assumed there was something to it. When I spoke to Jack's teacher the next morning, she confirmed that when Jack went to play with the other boys—who were all dressed like superheroes—they were mean to him and wouldn't play with him because he wasn't dressed like them. She also mentioned—and this is the heartbreaker—that some girls were playing house and Jack wanted to be their dog, but they wouldn't let him.
I've occasionally thought about how I would deal with it when Jack faced rejection, humiliation, exclusion—all the tough emotions that come with growing up—but I thought I had until at least elementary school! Who knew that three-year-olds could face that?
We talked to Jack about how to handle situations like that. To walk away and find someone else to play with if someone doesn't want to play, to tell the teacher is someone says something really mean or hurts you, but really, he's going to have to find his own way through moments like those. We all did—I just don't know if we had to so early in our lives. Maybe we did. Do you remember?
In any case, as I've talked to the teacher, it seems that the "nasty comments" were an isolated incident. She says that Jack generally gets along with everybody in the class, but that he does show a tendency to want to hang out with the adults—teachers, administrators, etc.—and that she often has to tell him to go play with friends.
We're planning to have more of his classmates over for weekend playdates in an effort to help build relationships, but beyond that , is there anything we could or should do? I'm generally of the mind that children learn by facing difficult situations and learning to cope with them and, unless something serious seems to be happening, I think we're going to mostly stay out of the way.
Has anybody else experience stuff like with toddlers?