Friday, July 24, 2009

A Bean Explosion

I set up the "bean table" outdoors at the end of the workday and the kids loved the tactile experience of it all. Other than a Waffle House lunch break, we had been stuck indoors all day, so the change of scenery outside was good for all of us. Here are the girls enjoying the bean play ...

But after a while the twins grew bored of bean time, and when they dragged me off for a walk, Claire and Ashley (neighbor kid) continued to play with the beans with the warning to keep the beans in the table.

But did they listen? No. A good while later I figured out they had dumped half our beans under the swingset (apparently Ashley's idea because she wanted to grow a beanstalk), and the outside fun came to a screeching halt. I swiftly sent Claire inside, disallowed Ashley play time for two days (which had Claire screaming and crying), and then calmly told Ashley that Claire couldn't play for the next couple days because my rule about keeping the beans in the table had been ignored. And while I painstakingly scooped up beans under the swingset with my bare hands, I spent a lot of time thinking about their behavior. This is truly the first time I've encountered Claire and a friend going against my rules. And I didn't like it. They knew they were doing something wrong, but they went ahead and did it anyways. More importantly, Claire has been doing bean table play for over two years, and she is very clear that the beans are not to be thrown around - so why was it so easy to convince her to throw them all over the ground?

Call it peer pressure or 'group think', but it scares me. Scares me for so many reasons ... as my brain wanders in the future to a drunken teenaged girl who gets herself in some trouble. I am not angry with Ashley, but I'm angry with Claire for not resisting the temptation to throw the beans everywhere, or for not telling Ashley "no". Claire has reasonable impulse control, and is not afraid of anyone, but around her friends she seems to lose all that and just go with the flow. So again, my brain is currently sitting at that image of her as a teenager when peer pressure is full throttle and for some reason she's the kind of girl who can't think for herself.

OK, so maybe I'm overreacting, and maybe her punishment was too harsh. Maybe I need to remind myself that she's four, and we're living in the here and now, and maybe in ten more years she'll have such a strong sense of values and self that she will make good judgments despite what everyone else is doing.

And in the meantime, I'll have to buy another enormous bag of beans. And work toward instilling certain values in her. And teach her to listen. And remind myself not to overreact.

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