I try hard to find playmates for my children. Michael has a weekly playdate with a boy up the street who is only 6 weeks older than he is. We've been getting together regularly for at least a year and a half. They are a wonderful family and it has been pretty amazing to watch their relationship develop from two babies playing side by side to two boys who run off to play independently. Ava is just starting to get together regularly with a little girl in our neighborhood who is only 4 months older than she is. So far, they mostly just play in the same space, but that is fairly typical for a couple of two year olds playing together.
I have a friend too. We've known each other since before marriage and children. Now she has a little girl,Cara, who turned four just a few weeks after Ava turned two. She is 8 months older than Michael and almost exactly two years older than Ava. We try to get together on a weekly basis too. It's great that the kids get along, but mostly, we just want to get together ourselves.
Usually, Cara and Michael play together. That was especially the case before Ava started talking. Or all three children would play independently. When they came over yesterday though, a whole new dynamic appeared. The two girls went off together. Cara was actively engaging Ava and trying to make her laugh. They were tickling and wrestling and just being silly. They climbed on the playset together. In fact, every time one wandered off, the other would follow. The girls played together for extended periods of time while Michael ended up a bit neglected.
I was torn. It was amazing to watch the girls playing together even with the two year age gap. The communication, enjoyment, and togetherness was like something that had been gift wrapped for Ava and it was beautiful. At the exact same time, I hurt for Michael. He was trying to get in on the fun, he really was. But somehow he just ended up sidelined. The girls weren't deliberately leaving him out. They were just interested in different activities.
I suppose that when Ava tags along on Michael's playdates she is the one sidelined, but somehow that doesn't make me as sad because the pair playing together are age matched. It was just fascinating to watch gender and personality determine the playmates more so than age. Social dynamics start so very young.