Thanks for the words of encouragement!
Your diagnosis is spot on, Rebecca -- Aviva forms very intense friendships one-on-one with parents around. Her having friends in playgroup would be as much a convenience for us as anything else -- we're not very reliable or efficient about organizing playdates. Aviva always has a great time, for instance, with Nessa and Rona, but we see them, what, maybe once every two or
three months. Our friends with kids are kind of scattered around in an hours'-drive radius -- there's usually never enough kid-density local to Aviva, though she does have one new friend down our street.
Karen, I wish J was around too.
For the last month, we've had a family living here -- Esther's childhood friend Katrin and her two kids, Zoe and Lars. Zoe is six, and Aviva both worships and provokes her. Having an older-girl friend is nothing new for Aviva --
that's what she gravitates toward, given a choice (her new down-the-street friend, Hannah, is seven).
Lars is a bit younger than Aviva, and their relationship is the new ground, because of the boys-shooting aspect.
Lars is a boys' boy, affectionate and huggy (he's always gentle with Noah) but a bundle of wild energy. He's only ever a razor-thin distance away from jumping, yelling, pummeling, running, dancing with glee, or full on thrash-wail tantrum. Aviva, even mid-tantrum, you can reason with: offering her alternatives and explanations
usually calms her down. Lars, once he's gone into tantrum mode, is gone. And Lars likes Loud Things.
Because Lars isn't really big enough to hurt his sister Zoe, a little inter-sibling pushing and shoving and smacking is tolerated in their family, whereas Aviva is used to the extremely strict regimen in ours (where being rough with Noah brings instant consequences).
Initially, Aviva had no idea how to handle Lars. He would shove her, or bump her, or flail around and nail her inadvertantly with something -- all sort of good-natured roughhousing -- and she would burst into tears, or else snatch his toys away and make him cry. It wasn't just an instantaneous reaction -- it really upset her. "But WHY would he push me?" she would wail.
After a month of them living with us, Aviva has totally adapted to the Larsosphere. He pushes, she pushes back, they wrestle a bit, and a moment later they're giggling and racing across the room.
He even got her to play shoot-em-up with him with improvised paper guns. (The real breakthrough, Esther remarked, was that Esther allowed this without blinking.)
This Saturday, the kids had gone up to play in the grass on the hill behind our house. We brought dinner out to the porch, and Lars and Zoe came running down. Aviva, having a Princess Moment, called, "carry me! someone has to carry me!"
"We're not carrying you!" we yelled back. After further shouted exchanges (commands from Aviva, wisecracks from us), Lars, good-hearted fellow that he is, took it upon himself to carry her, and raced back up the hill. He's noticeably smaller than Aviva. He tried to pick her up, and she shoved him off.
We watched, curious as to whether we would end up having to haul two fighting, bawling toddlers down the hill. But after a brief conversation, down they came, through the tall grass, running hand in hand.