Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moved...and starting Kindergarten

Mama Bear reared her ugly, roaring head today.

Hatchling #1 started Kindergarten yesterday in our fair new city. School started here back in August...way back, like the he is breaking in to an already established playground hierarchy.

Background info:

Said progeny is descended from bellicose vikings on my side and germans on his father's-pretty much the same thing. He is very tall. Being a tall five year old, he is also skinny, though not painfully so. His birthday is late June so he barely qualifies for the age cutoff for kindergarten, making him one of the youngest in his class, but he's already reading so it seemed counterproductive to hold him back a year for age equality.

He's a little athlete with a well-developed sense of justice. He's also the youngest member of the youngest class on the school playground.

He came home today with a vicious scratch on the back of one hand. Turns out, a bigger kid grabbed him and was holding his hands (a smaller scratch bedecorates the other) and Bambino wasn't having it so he pulled his hands back to himself. Good for him. He did EXACTLY the right thing. He stood up for himself without hitting back or being a weinie tattletale.

We had a little chat about bullies. You don't have to put up with anyone putting their hands on you if you don't want them to. If they do, you tell them forcefully to stop. You have permission to defend yourself. If you need help, get a teacher but try to resolve it yourself first.

Little man tells me these kids are bigger and step on the littler ones. On their heads, arms, whatever they can stomp. My guy feels guilty for not interfering when they pick on someone else. Wow. I remember that feeling. What a conundrum as a mother. So that boy I married and I had a talk about how to handle this. We concluded the following, in descending level of importance:

1. Our child's physical safety is priority number one.
2. We want to instill (or reinforce, in his case) his right to stick up for himself.
3. We also want him to speak up for others if the situation warrants.

Now. How do we reconcile 2&3 with 1? That boy I married wants me to talk with Little Man's teacher. I don't want to be that mom...not yet. I don't want to mark my child as the kid with the overprotective mother, especially if he can fight his own battles or learn to. He obviously has some sense of self preservation or he would have intervened when others got picked on. I need to help him find the line that when crossed means he needs to go for help.

For tonight, I told him he did the right thing. I told him that when someone else gets picked on he should stand up for them if he thinks he can. And I told him that when I was little, and his dad, too, sometimes we didn't say anything either. Because we had the sense to be scared.

I hope that as he gets older he will find the strength to help someone weaker and the creativity to do it even if he feels outmanned. I did, somehow. I was the bully target for over three long, miserable years and I still never suffered the torture of someone weaker than me. It is a violation, an abomination. I'd rather be hated than live with knowing I should have spoken up, even when I was twelve.

In the meantime I hope my child's mother will refrain from the instinct to find the little $#8#s who are doing this and tell them in hushed tones, below the hearing of rational adults, that they might be bigger than my kid but I am bigger than them. Their mamas might not care if they act this way but I do. I can find them. I can make them sorry if they don't stop.


  1. My oldest son, who is 9, has a girl bully. She teases and torments him with words, and does it under the radar of the adults. She's smart and manipulative. And has a gang of friends that lends her power. She continues until he finally snaps and physically pushes her away. Then she goes home and tells her mom, and her mom stomps into school, and yells and my son gets in trouble (as he should) for pushing.

    I am not tolerant of his pushing behavior, and he gets in big trouble with us when he reacts that way. I am frustrated that I cannot get the other mother to accept her own child's behavior. So, I work on my son's behavior and how to react to emotional bullying. It's something he has to learn, but I wish that he could feel heard in all of this. Losing his voice isn't okay. I am hoping that sometimes it is enough that his mom understands.

    For years, he has said that he just wishes that he didn't have to see her at school. The little girl maintains that she wants to be his friend. Her mother applauds her daughter's kindness. I don't see that as kindness at all.

    Being a mom is SO hard some days. Especially when your sensitive son is being hurt. In ways that other people can't, or won't see.

  2. Oh, Heather. That is rough. The worst thing is the kind of bullying that girls engage in is so insidious, much harder to defend against. With boys (generally, of course) even if it comes to blows if the weaker one demonstrates some gumption and toughness it's usually resolved. Girls are relentless and make their target miserable without giving him or her a valid reason to fight back.

    Speaking from experience I can tell you that it helps a lot that his mom believes him. I endured the same type of thing for a couple of years before my dad took it seriously. My parents were great but to this day they will tell you that was their one big mistake. Dad just thought so much of me that he didn't really find it believable that I wouldn't be liked, or at least respected, at school.

    And the teachers. Ugh. Some of them are so backwards they tend to side with the power clique. Why a fully grown adult would care if the cool kids in a sixth grade class like her is beyond me.

    Parents? Some of them defy explanation. There is not a thing you can do about it but feel sorry for their kids, who are not going to learn some of the things your son is until they are in their twenties and the consequences are much bigger.

    The only bright spot, again speaking from experience, is that this kind of experience makes you much more socially aware. I read people a lot better than my genetic code would dictate. I developed skills in self-defense that I would never have posessed. I wouldn't go through it again and I'll homeschool my kids before I let them be that miserable but the experience was not completely without practical value.

  3. Laurel, I think I know of the time you speak, and I was so glad to have you back with me when you started JD, though we didn't have classes together. I really missed you, buddy, in Jr. High, even though I have to say Jr. High was horrible. The girl bullies were terrible, but I remember one girl sticking up for me. Just a few years ago, I had the opportunity to thank her. She didn't even remember my name, but I remember hers. I got so choked up, I could barely get the words out to thank her. I pray for her from time to time and ask God to bless her for sticking up for me. I still do that to this day. She has no idea how much that meant to me, what it still means to me.

    I sometimes feel like a righteous monster who would literally bite the head off of some hideous person who was messing with my baby. I will rip the head off, chew on it a few moments as I gleefully watch the blood spurting out of the neck, then spit the mangled body part out on the ground, and stomp on it with my gargantuan feet (claws extended-but painted red, of course). Yep. LOVE that image of the protective mama.

    It is very difficult to restrain the monster mama when I hear about playground woes. Or, last year when I perceived my kid being picked on by the teacher! GRRRRR!

  4. I have a 5-year-old just starting kindergarten. His birthday is in July, so he's also one of the youngest in his class. however, he is also in the 10% bracket for height, he's my Peanut. But still, he can read on a second-grade level and is academically ready for kindergarten (even though he isn't sure if he likes it or not).

    We haven't had issues with either kid getting picked on yet. They have been told that they should not put up with it, it will be interesting to see who they react when the situation arises.

  5. Jennifer, when my dad told me (lunch, Saturday, our kitchen table at the McGehee Road house. We were eating tuna salad sandwiches and chips. It was cloudy but not raining.) that they had decided to let me transfer out of Trinity for high school I burst into tears. I couldn't stop. I still get choked up thinking about that. Just knowing there was light at the end of the school year tunnel got me through the rest of ninth grade. Interestingly, things got better at school since my attitude went from "just don't attract attention" to "kiss my ass, suckers. I am outta here and you guys have three more years in this hellhole."

    High school, by contrast, was a very happy era. We had so much fun!

  6. These issues are so difficult, so many things to think about.
    I would talk to the teacher. You won't be able to do this in a couple of years or so, but talking to the teacher gives you other insights you might be able to use in the future. He/she may be able to give info about the other kids, or what your child is doing/handling things...I don't know. I side with your hubby on this one. It's hard though. Very hard.

  7. Chris:

    The biggest reason I am not taking this to his teacher-yet-is that he just started on Wednesday. I can't realistically say if this is a pattern or not. Little Man just started and both he and I are making our impressions now. If this is not a major or recurring problem it may be difficult for me to get someone's attention when there is a real issue.

    I've been a teacher. Squeaky wheel parents are not taken seriously. I'd rather volunteer at the school or something (if I can get the Princess in mother's morning out somewhere). Then I will be better able to observe and develop a relationship with the teacher and administrators. Frankly, it's the biggest reason I gave up a job I loved. I anticipated the possibility that school would not be the release of intensive child care that we all dream of while wiping crayola off the walls but rather a time when I would need to be all in.

    My Little Man is going to put me through the wringer, and probably his teachers, too, so I make a lot of decisions with an eye toward handling his teachers, not just him. I want them to feel supported by me and willing to work with me and the LM.