My best friend and I had sons exactly six months apart and we hoped they would grow up to be friends. As it turns out though, they are poles apart in character, interests and even build. While my son is small and looks much younger than his five-and-a-half, my friend’s five-year-old is big-built. He is a friendly, boisterous boy and obviously has no idea that he can be intimidating to my son. It’s got to the stage where my son doesn’t want to accompany me on my outings with my friend—the last time, he actually wanted me to call her for reassurances that her son wouldn’t “bother” him. She does try her best with her son, rapping him verbally for being too physical, but he’s just a child. Is there anything we can do to help them get along with each other?
Oh well—children teach you at a very young age not to make predictions and decisions about who their friends will be and how they will react, don’t they! Mama proposes and baby disposes.
Checkmate: Parents can’t dictate who their children should befriend.
Right now, since there seems to be some kind of build-up of reluctance and avoidance and even fear in your child, it’s just best not to insist that the big guy and he play together. Insisting will just get both of them more reluctant and the whole interaction will become unnecessarily forced. There is only so much that a big-built five-year-old can do to rein himself in. While it’s good that his mother is teaching him to mind how he plays with your son, it could all become too much of an issue between these two children at this time. And the possibility of awkwardness creeping into your friendship with the other mom is quite real, given that your kid shrinks from him and the other kid is being asked to watch himself around your son.
It’s understandable that you and your best friend want your children to get along because you spend time together. But right now, at this age, their physical differences are most prominently at work in their relationship. Wait it out a bit, and over the next year or so, they will be a little less all over the place and a little more in control of their limbs, especially the big guy. At that stage, they will begin to take more interest perhaps in each other’s company and play less physically. You could sort of start the process perhaps by coming up with non-physical games for the two of them to play together in a few months—simple board games, listening to one of you read out a story to them or maybe just watching a cartoon together, etc. Just now, it’s best that the two are not forced to get along—where in the process one is made to feel like a large clumsy fellow and the other is made to feel like he has to shrink and cower around him.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.
Send in your queries to Gouri at firstname.lastname@example.org