Q&A: four-year-olds and weird social issues

I didn't really think of it in the name reveal post, but you can call me whatever you want now, as long as it isn't late for supper. (Thank you--I'll be here all week.)

Since this was an IM question posed to me late at night by a friend, I'm going to have to paraphrase it here:

"My 4-year-old daughter has a close friend with lots of Disney princess stuff--dolls, nightgowns, etc.--and she only has one or two DP things. She's constantly talking about the things her friend has, and how she wishes she had things like the friend does. How can I deal with this, while also not completely losing my patience with her?"

I think a lot of this is about the age. 4 seems to be a time when kids really start to be aware of social things in a way they never were before. Before this it's like they're really interested in one-to-one interaction. But at 4 they start to figure out social dynamics and how people related to each other in different groups.

One of the things that was striking to me when my older one was in preschool was how squirrely all the kids got about attending birthday parties. Even the parties of kids they'd been friends with since infancy. They'd be excited about the party, and then the day of the party decide they didn't want to go.

I think it's just the beginning of figuring out who they are in relation to other people and to groups of other people.

So I don't really know what to say about the friend situation. It's not really going to help to point out what she has that the friend doesn't (toys, baby sibling, etc.), because a 4-year-old can't see things in that way.

The only thing I can think of is to talk to the mom of the friend to see what her daughter has been saying. It's possible that the other girl has been making similar statements about your daughter, so the issue really isn't the actual toys at all, but the "why am I not her?" thing. Which is normal, but still perplexing. And annoying.

Readers? Have any of you gone through this? How did you deal with it?