My son Vlad is six and a half. He enjoys playing outside with the kids. There are about five kids near the block, besides him, who are playing outside every afternoon after school. Kids are usually supervised by their parents. I leave Vlad by himself because I think he is old enough to get some confidence in his own strength and to start looking after himself.
One day I hear the kids outside playing and tell Vlad "Hey sweetie, kids are outside, do you wish to go and play with them?" The usual reaction would be him running at the window, looking and then rushing to put clothes on (without even asking for help as when we go to some less desired places) and living in a hurry with a lot of enthusiasm.
What answer do I get now? "I don't wish to go outside, mom!"
You can imagine my surprise. I ask why, hardly listening to him, and he tells me "Kids won't play with me." Not listening careful enough I just answered something like "How did you get this idea? I'm sure they will play with you." And ended the topic, Vlad went to play on the Ipad and I continued what I was doing without giving it a second thought.
The next day the same, he doesn't want to go outside. Babysitter tells me the same. After a few weeks of ignoring the issue, one day, when I'm coming back from work he is with the nanny outside. Children were playing like 50 meters away and he was playing in our little front yard with the cats. I want to go in and ask him if he stays outside. He says again no. I ask him why and he tells me angry "I told you before, kids won't play with me!" I am on the edge of getting angry and shouting at him that that's just stupid, when I get another thought: "I might try to figure all out, what is going on with him." So I'm asking: "Do you want me to go to Maia and ask if she will play with you?" And he says "Yes!"
So leaving my judgments behind, regarding how can I go as an adult to ask a kid if she's playing with mine, I'm going to Maia and ask. "Hi Maia! Vlad tells me that you are not playing with him, is that right? She answers "I do, I will, ask Danut." So I'm thinking something is fishy here... and I ask Danut: "Danut, will you play with Vlad?" and he says yes but Maia should tell you...good. So I am turning again my attention to Maia and ask her, "Did something happened, Maia?" and she starts shyly to tell a story about Vlad punching Danut younger brother..."But he didn't want to, It was an accident!" and she also tells me "Go ask his father! "Good, I'm telling to myself, it seems I'm getting to an end. Asking the dad it turns out he told Vlad in an angry voice: "If you can't play nicely with the kids, don't show up here anymore!" My first thought when I heard that was "How can he talk like that with children? And then he explains me some more "I didn't hit him or anything..." I could kill him for that!" I didn't' acted on it though... I nicely asked him that if he has some problems with Vlad in the future to approach me.
I'm calling Vlad and he comes shyly. I'm telling him that nobody is angry at him, he is allowed to play with the kids and all that in front of the dad which approves. So my little beloved boy immediately goes to them and start engaging in their games.
I was so sad that Vlad had to go through all this without my support and that I was blind and deaf enough for a few weeks to see and hear what was going on. I wonder how painful it was for him all that time to see the children playing outside and thinking that he is not welcomed or accepted. I went to him, apologized for not seeing it sooner and asked him to tell me if any adult approaches him in the future on any topic. I explained him that I give him the freedom to be by himself outside but this comes with the risk of me not being there to support him if needed. I asked him again to tell me what is going on so I can do that, stand by him and be there for him. "Kids should deal with kids and adults with adults!"..."Yes, when some adult talks to me I will come and tell you or Geta or Corina, whoever is with me!"