Before the School Year Starts...
Before the school year starts, I have a special message to anyone whose kiddo will interact with mine in a classroom, an activity, or even just the lunchroom:
Please tell me if my child is anything less than kind to yours.
Let me start by saying I love my babies, and I will protect them with the ferocity of a mama bear when the need arises.
But, I've also seen them physically fight with each other over ridiculous matters like who has the "most-brownest hair". And they're human. And they have my genes. So if I'm being honest, there is the likely possibility that they will have some less-than-stellar moments in dealing with other people.
Don't let the angelic faces fool you. They look all adorable with their long eyelashes and tan skin, but the moment you aren't looking, they'll likely accept a dare if it will yield them an extra snack for lunch. 99.9% of the time they are great kids, but there's the 0.1% when I hear my mom cackling from beyond the grave with an "I told you so! I hoped you'd have children just like you!"
So, if my kid says something not so nice to yours, tell me.
If they don't keep their hands to themselves, tell me.
If they taunt your child or say/do anything that makes your child feel like an outsider, tell me.
And not just your kid. If while you're on playground duty (may the force be with you) or on a field trip (like a field trip to the zoo when it's 95 degrees - again, may the force be with you), and you hear my kid being unpleasant, please tell me.
Most of the time, my kiddos have hearts of gold and would give you the shirt off their back. They help collect things for the shelter and they draw cards for those in nursing homes. We talk about peer pressure and being good examples and making sure that everyone is included, but they're kids. They're kids who want to fit in and want to have friends, and we've all been kids on a playground where sometimes we fall into the trap of doing something we typically wouldn't because it's less scary than doing the right thing.
And I want to know if those times occur. Not so I can scream and yell and punish them til they are 25, but to use the opportunity to figure out what we can do better and how we intend to remedy the situation. (Oh, and yes, they will likely get grounded from something valuable to them. That's just parental law, right?)
Last year, there was a bullying incident at school. My kiddo was not the instigator, but was a follower, and by being a follower, failed to stand up for a friend and do what was right. We had a long discussion and in the midst of it, I realized that I was hypocritical in asking my child to stand up for others and not take the easy way out -- because I hadn't stood up to the bully's parental figures on other occasions myself where I should have. I was asking my grade schooler to do something I wasn't prepared, at 36, to do myself.
Not a great feeling.
But that's why I say this: tell me if these situations arise. Because at 36, I'm still learning. I'm still making mistakes or shirking away from confrontation at times because it's easier. And if I can do that at 36, I am certain that times will arise when my kids are prone to give in to pressure, too. It won't just be now. It will happen when they're 10, 17, and even sometimes in their 30s and beyond. But if I don't know, I can't help all of us learn a lesson and make better decisions next time.
We're all parents, and we're all doing our best. And while I'd love to think my kids are amazing enough to have bronze statues made in their likeness for their unwavering goodness, I know they have another side. Throughout our kiddos' years together, we might not see eye-to-eye on everything. But you can be sure that I won't tolerate the needless verbal or emotional abuse of another person, especially a child.
So talk to me. Let's work it out together, because if we don't have each other, it's gonna be a longggggg ride!