I just a heart to heart talk with my son. Sometimes parenting sucks, but this is life folks. It is spring break this week and his daycare has a week full of field trips planned. He’s happy about all but one. Friday is swim day at the local Y and he’s terrified he won’t have anyone to swim with. I have promised that I will find somewhere fun for him to go that day, but he’d really like me to take this week off work so he can stay and play with the kids in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s April and I only get 18 days total to play around with. Not a lot when I have to use them as sick as well as vacation days. And when we have at least two mini trips planned and a wedding in CA and a wedding I’m a part of back to back in October. Let’s just say my days add up fast.
I’d love to take a week off and just do fun things as a family. Unfortunately in this family, at this time and place, it’s just not an option. I guess all kids have to have something to complain about as adults right? How their childhood was shitty and they would do this unlike their parents? Well, this will be my kids. 2 working parents. 1 parent only home on the weekends…the fun one at that.
While I’d love to not work and shield him from this week that will most likely suck, I can’t. And I shouldn’t right? I can’t put him (and G eventually I’m sure, we just aren’t there yet with her) in a bubble and roll them around like hamsters all while screaming at everyone or anything potentially harmful to get away. I would love to, but I try to think back on what has made me the kick ass adult I am today (Quiet, I am!). Struggle. People and kids being mean. People challenging me. People putting me down. People hurting my friends, my family. All that has molded me into the strong adult woman I am today. For the most part. Until crap like this happens.
I by no stretch of the imagination had a hard childhood. But I was picked on…when I was noticed. I tended to mostly hide in the corners and blend in to avoid being noticed, which has led to its own difficulties as an adult. Now my son tells me he does the exact same thing to avoid being singled-out and picked on. He hides behind stuff and if they notice them, he hopes like hell they’ll decide to be nice to him. Well crap. Way to create a clone of you Jen. Same insecurities. Same coping mechanisms. I need to nip this in the butt before he becomes the hermit I fight being every day. I need to help him overcome this quicker than I did, which was around age 30, which is a lot of wasted years and hot, not saggy body time.
From what I can tell, there is a pack of roving boys that seems to dominate the before and after care scene. They are older, not by much from what I can gather, but they are bigger. There is one ringleader that the adults seem to not know how to handle. I can’t quite grasp if there’s really only one set of boys to hang out with his age, but he seems to think this is his only option right now. To hang on the fringe of the meanies and hope he doesn’t get singled out or even, occasionally, on the really good days, he might just be included and be part of the group.
Now here’s the thing. What do I say? I told him tonight to never ever feel embarrassed or ashamed to tell me about his fears or struggles in school or with other kids, because, believe or not, his dad and I both have some fairly decent experience in this area. His dad was picked on for being the pale kid from the wrong side of the tracks. You know, the one adults always accused of stealing stuff, because he was the poor one, and the non-athletic goofy kid all the kids targeted. I, on the other hand, was just not noticeable enough to get picked on, but on the same side of the coin, not noticeable enough to get ignored most of my school going years. I had my small handful of very loyal friends, but most people left me alone and didn’t know I existed. Which was its own type of childhood hell.
What advice can I give to the kid? What can I as a mother do without being too overbearing and intrusive? I’ve asked if there are other groups of boys he could pal around with, or even maybe just one or two who are quieter and like the things he does. He doesn’t seem to think so, but mother hen me will be making sure of that with his teachers come Monday morning. He had a great girlfriend with whom he’s paled around with since preschool, but she has decided he can’t hang with her because her new “girl” friends don’t want a boy in their group. Ewwww. (Even though said boy will most likely be a rich genius one day, so you might be missing your chance here ladies. But this is just one biased opinion.)
I know I can’t shield my kids from harmful, painful things in life. Because bullies become adults too. They just take different forms. And they get sneakier and meaner. And they craft passive aggression like an artform. They manipulate the system so people are afraid to stand up to them because their wraths are terrifying. They make it so everyone walks on eggshells so as not to upset them. People around them make excuses and make you feel like the bad guy for cutting off contact or standing up for yourself. My kids will need to learn to successfully identify and stay away from these people. They will need to handle them with confidence and defuse them before the situation gets out of hand. They will need to learn when to stand up for themselves and when to let it go. They will need to learn to choose their battles wisely.
And Bear’s a boy. Girls are a whole new level that terrifies me. So far, G has only had minor spats with girls she loves and calls her best friends. C won’t share her toy. B wanted to be the teacher today and I had to be the student. Stuff like that. Lord help if she realizes her dream of growing up to be a cheerleader. What will someone like me do with that? Pray for me. I am not strong enough for those mothers, let alone help her with her peers.
My solution for the moment is to survive spring break and wish this week away as quickly as possible. Talk to his teachers about it. And ultimately move him to his school sponsored summer daycare where he’ll hopefully be with a few of his classmates for the summer. Fortunately, this has been limited to his after care and he is so far a hit with his school friends (none of which go to his current after care).
Here’s where being an introverted parent is challenging. Time to break out of my comfortable armor and go fight for my kid. Ask questions. Make decisions to stand up for him and put him where he’ll be loved and accepted for who he is. Wish me luck.