(Writing from September 20, 2011.)
I’ve been upset by the distraught Facebook status updates of a friend for the last 24 hours or so, because I can relate to them, and because I’m really upset for her. And I’m pissed off about what’s happening to her daughter at school because it has happened to my son. And my son has been kind of dealing with the “boy version” of it lately. And because, like my friend, I don’t know how to handle it or what to do. And this is partly because I can’t be next to my child, or inside of his brain, guiding him on what to say and do all day long at school.
I’m being cryptic. I’ll try to explain.
My friend has a little girl the same age as my son, who started kindergarten this year, like my son. She is a bright, glowing little light; one of those outgoing, happy, sparkly little kids who likes to sing and dance, and is a friend to all she meets.
Both of our kids share an adorable lisp on the ‘R’ words (acceptable/age appropriate until first grade, according to his kindergarten teacher, no worries) and a super-sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve disposition. I am not a proponent of corporal punishment for children, but for my son, this has never even been an option regardless of my distaste for violence against those smaller than us, counting on us to keep them safe. I look at him sideways and he bursts into tears. We have no need for spankings. He already has more empathy than most adults I know.
My son is very similar to my friend’s daughter, which is why I could immediately relate to her distress over how her daughter was being treated by the other kids at school. You see, other children aren’t always as kind as our kids.
When my friend’s daughter runs up to other little girls on the playground and innocently asks them if they want to play with her, these little baby-bitches ignore her and turn away. My friend has been hearing about this from her daughter, and has watched it with her own eyes. And it’s breaking her heart.
As the momma of the most earnest little open-book-boy in the world, I have seen the same thing happen to my son on the playground, and I’ve watched him shoved to the ground by other little boys, and I’ve gotten him off the school bus, with a tear-streaked face, and asked him why he’d been crying, only to have him show me his scraped up hands and bruised legs, and tell me that an older boy on the bus violently shoved him out of his seat, to the floor, on the ride home. And like my friend, it is breaking my heart.
My husband has had to talk me down from spilling the blood of those who’ve wronged my boy, because obviously, I can’t be with him all day at school, and on the bus. And I can’t go around beating up third graders. He tells me that boys are different from girls, that they are more physical than girls, and I’m going to have to get used to my son being shoved, pushed, and hit all of the time. That’s just how boys interact, he tells me.
Well then why doesn’t my boy interact like that? If all boys interact this way, then why doesn’t my boy shove, push, and hit?
Oh, yeah. That’s right. Because I’ve taught him to keep his hands to himself. Because I guess I stupidly thought that was what I was supposed to be doing, and I thought that was what everybody else would be doing. I thought I was supposed to try to raise a kind human, with empathy, who used his words instead of his fists to communicate with others.
And I’m sure my friend with the also kind and gregarious daughter probably thought she was supposed to raise her daughter to be accepting of others, to be open to new friendships, and to have good manners when approached by her peers. Because I thought that too.
And I have seen my sweet kid run up to other little boys on the playground, saying, “Hi! Do you want to play?” and watched in horror as a little boy immediately shouted, “No! Go away!” causing my son’s face to crumple in sadness.
And in addition to the breaking of my heart for all of my fellow sensitive empaths in the world, like my son, and my friend, and my friend’s daughter, I’m starting to get really, really pissed off.
Like darkly, darkly angry.
Because it’s not the fault of these rude, cliquey, pushy-shovey, or otherwise poorly-mannered children… they are what they are because nobody has been teaching them to not be that.
I’m pissed because I have tried so hard to teach my son to be a gentle little boy that I did too good of a job. He is getting pushed around by boys at the bus stop, he is getting shoved around on the bus, he is getting hit at school.
And I’m watching the mothers of the shoving, hitting, pushing kids do nothing.
And I’m wondering where the fuck the teachers are when this shit is going down. This shit that makes my son come home from school sad.
So I’m experiencing the cognitive dissonance-producing phenomenon of knowing violence isn’t the way we solve our problems with others, as civilized humans. All while choking down the mother animal inside of me who wants to tear the throat out of anyone hurting my child.
Parenting is not for the weak. Oddly enough, physically controlling myself in the face of those abusing my child is the biggest challenge I’ve had to face as a parent. Not parenting, but other people. Other people are my biggest parenting challenge.
And that’s fucking ridiculous.
Just teach your kids to be decent people. Jesus. Why is that so much to ask? Don’t be an asshole, and don’t raise more assholes.
Do better, humanity.