Monday, January 7, 2013

Hard Lessons

Charles had a rough week at school last week, and this morning he didn’t want to go.  He didn’t kick or scream or refuse to leave the car when we got there, he just did that pitiful whining thing that simultaneously breaks my heart (because he is sad and you can hear it in his voice) and annoys the shit out of me (because it’s WHINING).  He generally gets over any hesitation he has about going to school by spending the first ten minutes or so of the day in the toddler room with Jamie.  And I always leave reassured by his love for his brother.


At the end of the day, he is usually bursting with stories of how he played drive-through taco stand or firefighters or painted some mittens or put together a puzzle or even, right before Christmas, proudly relating that he created a makeshift air hockey table with some giant checkers and a willing buddy.


But last week he came home upset every day.  Some kids at school told him that he was ugly.  They said his whole family was ugly.  Another kid (with acknowledged behavior problems) has been throwing things and hurting Charles.  People are fighting.


Some of the kids in Charles’s classroom have, for lack of a better term, dysfunctional families.  I know this, and I know that it won’t be the last time Charles runs into people who don’t know how to relate to others without insults and violence. 


But I just don’t know what to do to make it better.  Tony and I argue, but we never shout at each other and we don’t use bad words or ever insult each other.  I probably insult myself in the kids’ presence too often, but I’m aware of it and I’m trying hard to change (it’s tough – I’m going through a period in which I see no life improvement even though I am working so hard on so many fronts) so I can hopefully break the cycle and show them that it’s not okay to treat yourself the way I treat myself.  Charles doesn’t get to watch any movies that aren’t animated and geared toward very young kids, but I know that many of his friends watch more adult movies (Transformers, Batman, Spider-Man) with violence and swearing and adult themes, and of course Jamie doesn’t get to watch movies or TV at all.  We try to teach Charles to be kind to his friends, that it is never okay to physically hurt someone and it certainly isn’t okay to retaliate when someone hurts you.


Words like “ugly” are reserved for situations – never for a person or their creative outlet.  We had to explain the difference when a radio announcer was talking about the Seahawks and an “ugly” play.


So, bottom line, we’re trying to set a good example and we’re trying to talk to him about why kids are sometimes mean, without delving to deep into why kids are sometimes mean.  How could I?  How could I possibly make him understand that some kids’ parents are mean to each other and their children?  That at home these kids don’t get enough love to know how to be kind to one another.  Sheesh, some of them don’t get enough food.


Compounding the issue is that Charles is a pretty sensitive kid.  I’ve watched him play with other kids his whole life, and he wants nothing more than to play heartily with anyone around.  He gets a bit too physical sometimes, and he has the normal issues with sharing common to his age group, but overall, he just likes having friends.  He doesn’t understand why some of them don’t want to play or can’t give and take during play.  He gets sad.  He is extremely social so he gets lonely. 


I remember being in about 5th grade and crying to my mother because the other kids in my class didn’t like me.  Sometimes they were mean to me and said terrible things, other times they just didn’t include me in their fun.  It hurt so badly to not be able to relate, to feel like I was always saying or doing the wrong thing or that it was all just a setup and they were going to ditch me and make fun of me later.  And now I know that it probably hurt my mom just as much.  I like to think my struggles with friendship and (un)popularity made me a better person as an adult.  The embarrassments and the missteps and the social faux pas had to have served a purpose.  Else, why the pain?


Oh, parenthood.  Thank God the good outweighs the bad.


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