Too Close For Comfort
Growing Up Is Hard for You
As a child's social horizons expand to include overnights to Grandma's house, playdates with friends, and mornings at preschool, she discovers a whole new world, one in which other adults may know magic tricks, knock-knock jokes, songs, or cookie recipes that her own parents don't. Increasingly curious and eager to explore, she's ready to develop independent relationships with other trusted adults.
This can be a conflicting process for parents. As a child gets older and starts to relate to other adults, parents alternate between feeling proud of her developing social skills and wistful about the days when they were the center of her life.
When Tracy Scannell-Keating's family moved into a new neighborhood, her 2-year-old daughter, Brenna, grew very fond of their next-door neighbor, Marianne, who, like Scannell-Keating, was a stay-at-home mom. "If this woman had said, 'Eat liver,' Brenna would have taken four helpings," says Scannell-Keating, of Shrewsbury, MA. "She constantly asked if she could play over there, and even called her 'Marianne Mom.'"
While some of the reasons behind Brenna's enthusiasm for her neighbor were obvious -- Marianne had an older daughter with whom Brenna liked to play, and the house was well-stocked with kids' videos and toys -- Scannell-Keating still wondered how she could make her daughter want to spend as much time with her as with her neighbor. Eventually, as Marianne's daughter and Brenna started spending more time at Scannell-Keating's home (they spent hours playing dress-up with old clothes that had been stored around the house), she realized that Brenna, like other kids, simply loved the excitement of sometimes playing in someone else's home -- it was a safe "other world" to explore. It didn't mean she didn't like playing at home too.
Sondy McLinn, a mother of two boys in Middleton, WI, admits she once felt more than a twinge of envy when she'd see how much her sons enjoyed playing with her mother. "I'm not as playful as my mom, and not nearly as into sports," says McLinn. "Even when the boys were just preschoolers, she'd tumble and run around with them. They'd all be giggling and laughing, and I'd feel left out." With encouragement from her mother, who'd sensed that something was bothering her, McLinn decided to find things that she and her sons could do together. She quickly discovered that they enjoyed reading books and doing puzzles with her as much as they did roughhousing with their grandmother. "Once I realized that they had fun with me too, I saw that it's okay if they consider their grandma a playmate who can do things with them that I don't want to do."