Since she hadn't eaten, I decided to take her (and Vince!) to Chick-Fil-A for a quick bite before we headed down to Ocean City for the weekend.
While we were at Chick-Fil-A, I turned the two of them loose in the play room. For the first ten minutes, we were alone. Vince and Alliya got full run of the place and gloried in their non-stop romping. However, another little girl (about Alliya's age) came in and decided she wanted to be mean.
Alliya is super friendly and extremely out-going. She thinks everyone in the universe is a friend-waiting-to-happen. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same golden out-look on life that she does.
This is what unfolded after Alliya entered the part of the tubing that the little girl was in:
Alliya: Hi, do you want to play with me?
Little Girl: Get out of here!
Alliya: I just want to play together.
Little Girl: Geeeet ouuuut!
Alliya leaves and follows Vincent (who is blissfully unaware of the commotion) down the slide.
As Vincent heads back up the stairs to slide down again, Alliya sits down next to me and says, "Aunt Gina, that girl doesn't want to play with me."
I responded (loudly enough for the little girl to hear), "I have no idea why someone wouldn't want to play with a sweet girl like you, Alliya. You're so much fun! Maybe she's confused and didn't understand you wanted to have fun together. I'm sure she didn't want to be so mean to you."
Alliya seemed hesitant to believe me, but she bounded up the stairs after Vincent anyway. The little girl promptly left the playroom after shooting me a grumpy look. I briefly wondered where her parents were, but soon turned my attention back to Alliya and Vincent (who were now triumphantly enjoying the car tubing that had previously been blockaded by the other child).
Several minutes later, the same young girl returned. Vincent and Alliya were still playing in the car tubing. Instead of entering the tunnels, the girl climbed onto the slide and basically waited for Alliya and Vince to slide out. I smiled at her in an attempt to show her we weren't mean people, but she pretended not to see me. Soon enough, Vince and Alliya came down the slide together.
Alliya immediately noticed the little girl was back and once again approached her.
Alliya: My name is Alliya. Do you want to be my friend?
Little Girl: *silence*
Alliya: Can we be friends? My name is Alliya. What's your name?
The little girl remained silent again, so I chimed in with, "Maybe she's shy, Alliya."
Vincent then ran over to follow his cousin and started babbling at the little girl. Alliya, being the awesome big cousin that she is, introduced Vincent to the stone-faced little girl saying, "This is Vincent. He's my baby cousin. He doesn't talk good yet. Do you want to be friends?"
The little girl simply said, "No," and then walked to the play area. Vincent ran off to play with some of the wall puzzles, but Alliya, obviously crest-fallen, came to my side again with this look of sadness and confusion on her face. I felt terrible for her.
She said, "Why doesn't she want to be my friend, Aunt Gina?"
I said, "I don't know, Alliya. Sometimes people are mean to others because they don't know any better."
I really had no idea what else to say to her. I was incensed that this little girl was being so mean to Alliya, but I was at a loss as to how to best address the situation considering her parents were nowhere to be seen. Instead, I gave Alliya a hug and said, "But I'm so proud of you for trying to be friends even after she was so mean to you. You're a big girl, and you're teaching Vincent to always be nice to everyone, no matter what. Thank you for being such a good big cousin."
She puffed up at that. And ya know what she did?
She marched up to that little girl - AGAIN - and said, "We should be friends because that's what big girls do. We shouldn't be mean because it's not nice."
I have to admit being amazed at her tenacity. :) Amazed and proud.
And even though the little girl ignored her at first, she soon skulked her way up the stairs and asked Alliya if she wanted to see her do a cool trick down the slide.
My golden little niece - the truest example of turning the other cheek and responding to everyone with love. Even though (by adult standards) her indignation and hurt were petty, to Alliya, such slights were brutish. Yet she endured them and instead of reflecting the same streak of meanness, she responded with patience and kindness. And in the end, her smile and love charmed that little girl.
Well done, Alliya. Well done. We'd all do well to follow her shining example.