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Social Misfit

Little L has many strengths. She is a bright and highly verbal little thing, and her vocabulary is fairly advanced (eg. The other day when I told her to drink some water, she told me that, "I have to stay hydrated"). She frequently uses 8+ word sentences and can recite/"read" full books, including Seuss's "What Was I Scared Of?" She is attentive and observant, quick to learn and assimilate new information, and she knows all of her alphabet (upper and lower), numerical digits, and shapes and colours (both in English and Cantonese). So yeah, she is pretty advanced for her age.

However, one area that she is really struggling with is social play. While she is totally fine doing parallel play at Sunday School or the playground or even Science World, the moment another child gets in her "space" or tries to use the same equipment that she is using, she freaks out. As in, major tears and clinging and requests to either go home or "I want the other kids to go home!" 

Yesterday it happened at a playground when a particular obnoxious little boy (3-4 year old) kept wanting to be on the same slide that Little L wanted to be on. I tried to coax her to use the empty slide that he wasn't using, but the moment she headed that way, he would race over and basically commandeer that slide, resulting in a back and forth that was very frustrating (the parents of that boy didn't seem to see that his behaviour was a bit bullying). This led to many tears and pleas to go home. 

Today it happened again in our building playground. We had been happily playing on the slides by ourselves when a large group of slightly older kids (non-residents, which was highly annoying) emerged from the pool area and started climbing the equipment. Little L refused to share the slide and take a turn with these kids, who did try to include her in their play. Instead, she got more and more upset. The wails that ensued were so loud that Hubbs could hear Little L from inside his office on the opposite side of the building. The sobbing was inconsolable (and frankly, not like anything I've ever heard from her before in the last 2.5 years), and after trying to calm her down outside for 5 minutes, I decided to bring her home (against her will - she wanted the other kids to leave). Even after we got home, she continued crying bitter tears of disappointment, while I soothed her and tried to help her cope with the "Wall of Futility." Eventually she stopped sobbing and nursed and fell asleep from exhaustion.

What is this momma bear to do?! Little L doesn't seem to have problems with adults, nor is she particularly anxious when other kids are around provided they are doing something different and not in her way or her space. She is empathetic, gentle and loving. She is not aggressive and not too assertive either (though we are going to work on that, now that she has recently started laying claims to things as "mine!" and showing jealousy for my attention). 

Up until this point I feel like we have been spared the misery of the "terrible two's," but now that we are seeng tantrums starting, I think her development has kicked it up a notch.  We are trying to do more controlled play dates to give her limited, safe exposure to other same-age littles, but this anxiety / anti-social thing has got me a bit worried. Is it just a phase? Do we need to get a professional assessment? She is slowly becoming a social misfit on the playground, and that's the last thing I want to happen.

Any advice or insight you can share? Did any of your littles have this sort of anxiety or possessiveness about public play spaces? 

PS - some of these pics were taken by my extraordinary nanny Miss Bee!


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