"Mom, I want to go to the Secret Hideout with my cousin."
We are out at the lake at the family reunion and things have been awesome. But for the first time ever, Ethan is someplace where there is no one his age with which to play. Sure he has his brother (who will play whatever his older brother commands) for hours but for once, Nate has someone exactly his age who is keeping him busy.
In lieu of playing with the little kids all day, Ethan has discovered his older cousin Hayden. At eleven years old, Hayden is such a wonderful boy and has been nothing but extremely kind to his much younger cousin. He is so kind that I can see that he doesn't want to say "no" to Ethan when asked if he can tag along. He has taken him along a few times. The trouble is that Hayden really wants to be with his friends who are his age. I have absolutely no idea what eleven-year-old boys discuss but I am pretty sure it is way over the head (or should be) of a five-year-old.
Hayden is a very fast runner so I have noticed he has managed to escape a couple of times. A few times I have run interference so he can get away but he really shouldn't have to sneak away to be with his friends. I understand completely how Ethan feels though too. I never had anyone my age at family reunions and I wanted to be with the big kids.
My memories of the big kids seem to be the same ones Ethan is experiencing now. Everyone was always kind to me and they just disappeared when they wanted a break.
In addition to the conversational difference, the big kids stay up later. Before we left for vacation, Derek expressed his desire that the kids be able to embrace the Kid Anarchy he always experienced on vacation at the lake in summers when he was young. I reminded him that his memories of staying up late probably were not from when he was five years old and even if it was, too bad. Just like that old saying, "anything you can do after (insert your curfew), you can do before your curfew."
My kids do that crazy thing where they get up earlier if they go to bed later. I don't know why but I know it will happen as sure as I know the sun will come up in the morning. I told Derek that the kids could take a nap during the day if they wanted to stay up late or he could do morning duty at 4:15 (hello, time change). Unsurprisingly, he came around to my way of thinking.
As for playing with the big kids, I just sat Ethan down and explained it to him. I told him that he could be with Hayden every once in a while but that Hayden needed his space. I told him that Hayden was allowed to do things that Ethan was not because Ethan was still too young. I told Ethan the time would come when Ethan could do what the big kids are doing. I gave him all his choices for things that he could do so he didn't feel completely left out.
I think it worked, at least for today. What would you have done?