Last night, the boys and I went to the mall so that Jack could get his picture taken with the Easter Bunny. It has to be said, in his khakis, oxford, and argyle sweater vest, he was pretty much the cutest thing ever, especially when he was casually standing with his hands in his pockets, waiting to talk to the Easter Bunny about jelly beans.
After the pictures were taken and Jack had his chat with his bunniness, we went to the play area. Jack was excited to sit in a little car, as he was pretending to drive to Disney World. He got out of the car to run around, and in the time he was gone, a boy and girl sat in the car.
Jack was mad, because he wanted to get back in. Steve and I gave him the speech about how the car is not his, is there for everybody to play with, we have to take turns, blah, blah, blah. I swear, sometimes I bore myself with the parent speeches.
Jack was not happy. He tried, half-heartedly, to play with something else, but even after I pointed out that the rocket ship was red and that he could play Little Einsteins, all he could think about was the car.
First, he just kept a careful eye on the car, hoping that the other kids would tire of it and he'd have another turn. No such luck. Then, he tried to get them to play with him. I saw him approach the other kids with a, "Hey, guys," and an animated discussion of driving to see Mickey Mouse. They ignored him. Then, Jack noticed that the kids had a stash of books in the car at their feet. He brought them more books. The kids responded by wacking each other in the head with the books.
As all of this went on, Steve and I slipped from our primary objective, which was to make sure that our kid behaved appropriately, to watching the way the other kids were behaving. The kids knew very well that Jack wanted to play with the car, so they baracaded themselves in. If the little boy got out of the car, his sister stretched herself out across the front seat so that there was no room for Jack to get in if he wanted to. They ignored his friendly overtures, choosing instead to divide their attentions between fighting with each other and aggressively ignoring him.
To put it simply, they were jerks.
Finally, Steve and I called Jack over to us. Steve explained very gently to Jack that those other kids were not nice. They were fighting, and they refused to share. It's no fun to play with kids who are not nice, so it was time for us to leave and to go get that ice cream we'd talked about.
Ice cream, happily, proved to be just the distraction we needed, so Jack forgot all about the car, the drive to Disney World, and the mean kids.
As my little guy grows up, I am watching him navigate more and more social interactions. He is learning all the time. It makes me sad to realize that one of the lessons that he is learning is that there are people out there who are just jerks. Even if you try to be nice, try to share, and try to be friendly, they'll shut you out and be mean.
Luckily, sometimes ice cream helps.