As a mother I spend a large amount of time trying to work out what the words my children use actually mean. When they started to talk it was about working out what they are actually saying. As the main caregiver this was usually pretty easy as I spent so much time around them. But as there speech became more confident they started to talk about and use words that did not relate to what we were actually doing and it gets more challenging to work out what the words were. Then you get a stage when they have a limited vocabulary but they use words in a more imaginative way, using the words they do have to comment or discuss something that is new to them. Most of the time I get it right and when I don't it doesn't really matter.
Last night my youngest said something to me which really threw me, as we talked about what had been the best bit of the day for her she said, 'Nothing, I didn't have anyone to play with'. We had been out for the afternoon to a home ed group, there was a real mix of ages about ten children in total. We were walking and playing in some woods. I had thought she had had a good afternoon but maybe I was wrong, I am not entirely sure what she actually meant by these words, whether she felt excluded from the play that was going on, whether she didn't know how to join in, whether she felt intimidated, whether she felt overwhelmed by the number of children. It may also be that she is comparing herself to her brother who, at four years her elder, has made friends and plays happily and confidently with them. At her age though he was the same, watching from the edges, observing play, sometimes engaging and slowly but surely he made friends with other children. He did not like big groups at her age especially if he did not know anyone.
My youngest is a sociable child, she loves to be around people. She will chat happily to complete strangers when I am near. She will play with other children she meets at parks, soft play wherever. These are things her brother never did, we left the park if other children came along he needed it to himself. All her play at the moment however is one on one and I can't help feeling that this is what she is most comfortable with and when there is no opportunity for this, and there wasn't really in the woods yesterday, she feels excluded. She is still very young and learning about playing and cooperating with others these are really hard skills to learn and I hope that I can provide opportunities for her, as I have for her brother, to build lasting friendships.