Little Kids and Big Kids and Lessons In Community

When kids are of a certain age, generally speaking, they don’t want to play with the little kids.  It’s fun to run away and hide from them and that sort of thing. I know this from observing Sean and I know this from personal experience. I was the youngest, and even worse, a girl.  I spent the better part of my early childhood chasing after my older brothers, hoping to be allowed to play.  Either of them would have rather eaten a pencil than let me to hang out with them.  In their defense, I may have been somewhat annoying.  Somewhat.

And of course all the little kids want to play with the big kids because it makes them feel big and important and one of the gang. Deep down inside, I think I still want that. Just a little.

Anyway, in the last year or so when Sean is with either of his two good neighbor buddies, both of whom have younger sibs, they think its quite fun to exclude the younger ones.  Collectively, we moms do not permit this.  When this happens, I threaten suggest to him that if everyone can’t play together then we will have to go home.  I am hoping that at some point he will absorb this exhortation and do it out of a heart response and not under duress.

So then awhile back, Sean had a day off of school, and since it was was a nice day we went to the park to throw around our Nerf football.  I’m quite good with a football. I can throw it with laser precision and get that pretty little spiral on it.  It’s pretty impressive and you wouldn’t know that I could do that by looking at me.  I bring that up now because there has never been another opportunity.

So we were throwing the football back and forth and a young boy, maybe a 3rd or 4th grader, wanders through the park.  He stands off to the side watching, probably admiring my football spiraling skills or perhaps my tremendous beauty, I’m not sure which.  I ask him if he’d like to play. He does, so I toss him the football and step aside.  Sean and the boy throw the ball for awhile and all is calm, all is bright.

Shortly thereafter, two other boys pass through the park with a basketball.  They are 5th or 6th graders, I can’t tell. I can only tell if someone is a 1st grader.  They invite us to play a little b-ball (that’s basketball for you who are not as hip as I) and we set up teams; Sean and I and the 1st boy against the two 5th graders.

Aside: I can’t dribble a basketball to save my life. I do not have the basketball mojo. Never had it, never saw it, never been anywhere near it.  If I happen to make a basket it is a fluke of the laws of physics.  Tip:  If ever you are choosing up teams to play basketball, do not choose me.  I will understand.

There was something about the bigger of the two 5th graders. I could just tell that he was an oldest child and that maybe his mom had issued threats and made him to play with the younger kids and that at some point he had taken it into his heart.  He made several well-veiled “flubs” and allowed Sean to get the ball and take it down court.  I really appreciated that.

It wasn’t too long after that these boys grew weary of having to play basketball with me and decided to play Monkey In The Middle with the football.  Back in the day, we called it Keep Away.  I begged off and sat off to the side to watch.

The two fifth graders put Sean and the 3rd grader in the middle.  Sean had a great time running back and forth and trying to get the ball.  But the 3rd grader didn’t like it. It seemed to bruise his pride.  He threw a bit of a hissy fit which all the other boys ignored.

Eventually the 3rd grader had enough and stomped off, which left just Sean as the monkey.  The older boy would again discreetly flub from time to time and allow Sean to capture the ball and get to be a ball thrower instead of the monkey.  But it wasn’t long though before the big boys were ready to move along.

“We gotta get going,” the big boy said to Sean.

He gave him a knuckle bump and thanked him for playing.

Sean beamed with importance.

I winked at the older boy which I hope he correctly interpreted as a nod of thanks and not some creepy-old-lady come on.

As we walked home, I noticed a little extra spring in his step.

“That boy that stomped off, what did you think about that?” I asked.

“Not good.  That’s being a bad sport,” he said.  “Dad doesn’t like that.”

“Yup,” I said, “Neither do I.”

I was pleased that he recognized that.

“That felt pretty good, didn’t it? That those boys wanted to play with you.”

He nodded.

“Maybe you could remember that next time Kendall and AJ want to play.”

He nodded and skipped ahead of me.

Two lessons in one day.

Probably more effective than 100 days of motherly exhortations.

So to all the moms of big boys out there who have gone to the trouble to teach them to look out for and include the little boys – thank you.  Thank you very much.

That’s called community.

27 thoughts on “Little Kids and Big Kids and Lessons In Community

  1. Great story- My oldest was the recipient of older boy inclusion years ago. He now considers those boys -3 brothers- his brothers. They still help him out, talk to him and include him. My son has passed that on and includes younger kids as well. Love it.


  2. As a mom, a memaw, and a teacher this is one of the life lessons I try infuse in children. Sometimes you never know if those life lessons are being absorbed. It would be great to have a crystal ball and see children acting the way you want them to.


  3. I love it when a lesson comes together! I was also happy to read your hope that the boy didn’t take your wink as a weird old lady come on, only because if I had given the wink I would have wished the same thing and worried for hours that the police were going to show up at my door with an angry mother shoving her way to the front and telling me what for. So, I’m not alone. That’s always nice.


  4. Beautifully shared. I hope those 5th graders’ Moms (and/or Dads!) get to know about their sons’ behavior – what a proud and happy moment for them! I’ve seen the same dynamic here with girls, both the good and the bad, and seen my little girl’s shoulders slump as the bigger girls just pretend she isn’t even there, or worse, run in the house when she calls out HI to them. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? And then I’ve seen bigger girls who invite Bean to come “practice cheers” with them, and they lift her, beaming, to the top of the pyramid and smile up at her with words of encouragement. Such JOY! I haven’t really ever stopped to point out the hurt and joy and turn them into a learning experience (probably because I’m too busy trying to swallow around the lump in my throat and/or wipe away my own tears before she sees them), but I think now that I’ve read this, I will. So thanks!


  5. When Victoria was 8, she had a friend over (an only child) who made fun of Thad for some reason. Victoria said, “Um, Ally, we don’t TALK to our brother that way.” I was one proud Momma.

    And I always DO try to tell the older kids at church–teens mainly–how much of an impact they make on my two when they are included. It’s a big deal. I will try to refrain from leering at them, however. 😉


  6. Thank you AM. You know I am right in the middle of the teaching stage. R1 had a friend over the a few weeks back and the he is the younger sibling. He could tell that R2 wanted to play and he would let him every now then play whatever is they were playing. R1 wasn’t really keen on his baby brother hanging out with him but I was ever so thankful his friend was nice enough to include R1. Guess he remembers what it was like to be the younger sibling.


  7. now I remember why I haven’t been by in a while, I get all teary. You’re killing me over here. (I have a younger & older. I was the older, but very protective of my younger bro; he was my punching bag & no one elses. 😉
    I ache sometimes for my younger one. Her entire existence is to keep up w/the big kids, and she does, quite well. Occasionally, one of my older daughter’s friends will purposely go out of her way to exclude the younger one. I don’t always make them include her, it depends on the situation, but my oldest really enjoys her sister & is usually fine with including her. My younger has understood from a very young age when she’s not being included just bc she’s younger & it breaks her heart…and mine.
    That boy is included in my prayers this week.


  8. I really enjoyed this post! We’re right there in the process of teaching our 10 year old son to include all ages of boys in play, and it’s a hard lesson. The best teacher so far has been his exclusion by the boys on his b-ball team. It was his first year and he made so many mistakes at the beginning that they decided to exclude him completely. Thankfully he’s a fast learner, a real go-getter and has just taken a 4″ growth spurt! Now he’s really helping the team and they’ve decided to include him. Last game he scored almost 50% of the team’s goals. Knowing how it feels to be excluded has developed his empathy for the ‘little guys’ in ways no speech from Daddy or Mommy could ever accomplish!


  9. What a lovely story. I love watching my oldest son interact with his younger sibling’s friends. He’s so gentle and kind, Quite unlike his usual teenage angsty self. Makes me feel like there’s hope yet!


  10. I have a friend whose 3 older children always take the time to be nice to my two little ones (she is my parenting hero, btw!). It makes such a difference to my kids to be included with them, and I will now make a mental note to thank her and another one to make sure I teach this to my kids. Thanks AM.

    Oh and my favorite line was “I bring that up now because there has never been another opportunity”. Too funny!


  11. Somehow, the mamas of the big little boys need to set up a “spy system”, so that we can make sure that they are indeed adhering to the lessons we have tried to teach them. Kind of like a “like my driving? call 1800-123-4567”, only for behavior.


  12. Oh, this was so good. We just had the same experience at the park the other day when two older boys arrived (10 and 6) and they included my kids (4 and 3) in a game of tag. And they also “flubbed” here and there in order to give my kids a chance.
    Would love to see that spiral of yours.


  13. Love this! I’m thankful for the two little boys in our neighborhood who have welcomed Brennan and played with him regularly. They are close buddies. I hope Brennan remembers their kindness and does the same thing.


  14. Hee, Kathryn, too funny!

    When DD was 3 and in preschool, there was a 5-year-old boy who would sometimes look out for her and was very understanding of her 3-year-oldishness. I was in love with that little boy (in a non-pervy way)!


  15. “I winked at the older boy which I hope he correctly interpreted as a nod of thanks and not some creepy-old-lady come on.”

    I was out shopping with my 14 year old son the other day, after we exited one store an attractive man walking ahead of us kept turning around to smile at me. When we arrived at the car my son commented on the “creepy” guy that kept checking me out. He then said he should have taken my hand and acted like I was his girlfriend. Making the man think I was a cougar and therefore not interested in him. (Let me just add here that I am very happily married and not looking for a new man)

    A few days later I signed my son out from school early. I jokingly suggested he hold my hand on the way back to the car so the other students would think I was his girlfriend. For some reason he did not like the idea so much when the shoe was on the other foot. Go figure. 😉

    * * *

    Ha! That’s funny!

    Totally semi-unrelated: The other day I was in Sean’s classroom and called him “Doodles” – on accident of course – a couple of kids shrieked with laughter and cried, “Doodles?! Your mom called you Doodles!” Sean just smiled and shrugged it off but later he said it embarrassed him. Those silly kids. Don’t they know that Doodles means super-awesome-smart-adored-boy-who-is-loved-beyond-measure. Then again, my mom called me “princess” in front of the whole 4th grade class and I’ve never really forgiven her for that.


  16. I love your posts. They’re like little Mom how-to lessons.

    1. Teach Baby girl the importance of including everyone.

    2. Learn to throw mean football spiral. (Perhaps you could do an instructional video on this?)

    3. Don’t leer at boys in the park who are nice to my daughter. (Or if it is interpreted as leering, learn to disguise myself so I am harder to pick out of the lineup).

    Thanks AM!

    * * *
    It’s worth it to get up at 5am to write a post just for the chance that you’ll leave a comment. You never fail to crack me up.


  17. I almost always have a gut laugh when I read your posts. Today’s was

    “I winked at the older boy which I hope he correctly interpreted as a nod of thanks and not some creepy-old-lady come on.”

    This is an important lesson for our kids. So great when life gives you the fodder to talk about these things. 🙂


  18. Dear AM.
    I do not like this post. My eyes are now all red and watery and stuff and my nose is all runny and I now have to go to the bus stop looking like that.


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