Preschool Socialization: The Pool Pecking OrderBeth Anne Ballance
Part of the reason I’ve been so MIA on the internet is due to our glittery new pool membership. Since we moved into a neighborhood with a pool, we plunked down a decent amount of pocket change and have spent almost every waking sunny hour in the chlorinated waters since Memorial Day. I spent all of my summers growing up at the pool, so it’s been very cool watching Harry experience the joy I felt in the water. We get home at night and I pack sandwiches for dinner in the cooler and we stay until it’s almost bedtime. Harrison is becoming quite the little fish, too. While he had swimming “lessons” as an infant, his experience in the water is minimal compared to some and when we started the summer, he’d cry every time we mentioned him going under water. After a month and some pink goggles, he’s going all the way under and leaping off the side of the pool by himself. I am so proud!
This past weekend, I sat on the edge of the pool with my legs in the water and watched him play. Normally we are at the pool in the morning, go home for nap, then come back in the evening. But on Sunday, we were running “late” and I decided to scrap the nap and just let him play. He was thrilled with the extra play time, but it meant that all of the other 2-4 year olds had gone home for lunch and naps. There were some older boys tossing tennis balls in the shallow end; they were clearly “cool” kids and on the swim team.
Harry swam over to them in his bright pink goggles and orange rash guard. “Can I play?” he asked.
The eight-year-old swim team boy looked down at him and shook his head. “Nope,” he said and then went back to laughing and tossing the ball with his friends.
Harrison stood there for a minute and I called him over to me. “That boy hurt my feelings,” he whispered to me. I put my arm around his waist and hugged him in tight.
“I know he did, buddy. But he’s a big boy. It’s not fair and it might not feel nice, but that’s the way it is. But I want to play with you!” He spent the next hour jumping off the side, trying to splash me, the hurt from the big boys already forgotten.
I think what surprised me most in the situation is how MY feelings were hurt when Harrison was turned down. Suddenly, I felt like I was the one rejected and I fully understood that old saying that having children is like having a piece of your heart walk outside of your body. It felt… personal. I wanted to go yank that boy up by his swim team trunks and tell him to be nice, but the truth is that kind of momma bear reaction wasn’t warranted. The boy WAS nice. He wasn’t rude. He didn’t call Harrison names or push him. He just simply told him, “No.”
And my son needs to learn his place in the pecking order. He’s not eight-years-old, he’s three.
I think as much as the lesson hurts right now, it’s one that will serve him well in the years to come.