When my kids started preschool in September, there was an issue with my boy and a boy in his class. He was upset because this boy called out that he's a flapper. You know, how some kids flap when they're excited? His cousins took to saying "He flaps when he's happy. HE IS FLAPPY!" And then they all proceed to flap along with him. It's actually the very best thing on the planet and infectious, but we knew there would be a day when it was called to his attention in a way that wasn't so great.
Now, our nanny and his teacher were both so kind and proactive about this, it wasn't even a big issue, but then I kept hearing rumblings of, "I don't think (boy's name) likes me" from my boy and it was breaking my heart.
He was stuck on this boy and what he thought of him. We kept telling him things like, "You just keep being kind and know that no matter what anybody says or does, you're awesome. No matter what you wear or who you play with, you are awesome as long as you are kind. Not everybody is going to like you or want to be your friend. And that's OK. Because there will be a lot of people who WILL want to be your friend". He would tell us these things back letting us know he understood and he was really ok about it, but we knew it still bothered him. His sister - absolutely his backup and supporter - watched all this closely and has her brother's back forever.
Make no mistake, kids are kids and 3 and 4 year olds say and do things that are just things 3 and 4 year olds say and do. Not a big deal most of the time. They are learning and growing and developing social skills all day every day and we are here to be their guides, ultimately. I don't think this kid was doing anything out of the ordinary or being malicious AT ALL, but when your kid is hurting, you hurt, right?
I've made a couple mom friends with this class (who the hell do I think I am?) and one of them was a sounding board for me during this. She is friends with the boy's mom who my son was seemingly unable to let go of for a while there. She took a bullet and spoke with the other boy's mom and the boy's mom approached me the next day with tears in her eyes. I had tears too. She assured me she had spoken with her son and that's all it should hopefully take for a change to occur. She said she understood what this feels like as she has a situation with one of her daughters right now with bullying and it hurts. She said to let her know if I hear anything further about this and I said the same to her, I want to know if my kids are not being kind or exclusive. Always.
Since that day, my boy and the other boy are friends. Good friends. He always says hi to me and includes my boy (and girl) in his fun. Their class is adorable and cohesive and kind. Their teacher is quite awesome to have achieved such unity and great behavior with 16 3 and 4 year olds. My hat is off to her. I'm so thankful.
My takeaways from this are, be honest. Know that we all love our kids and our people fiercely and want what is best for them. People act and react out of fear. Understand that not everybody is going to be friends, but sometimes bridges can be built if we look for the similarities rather than harp on the differences. What would've happened had I gone off fully cocked and not been open to this conversation? What would've happened had this other mom not had the vulnerability to approach me about this and try to make it right. This could be one of my kids acting this way to another kid, we are all culpable at times and no kid or parent is without fault. I will always remember this conversation, on this day, with this mom. It was my first of these conversations, though I expect not my last. I'm thankful for her and how she reacted.
Building bridges may start in preschool, but they can last a lifetime with some maintenance and repairs along the way.
Every day when I drop my kids off or before I leave for work on the mornings I go into the office, I whisper three quick things in their ears - Be good listeners. Be kind. Be brave.
If a classroom is a microcosm of our society, we see before our eyes in these kids how to resolve our conflicts. There are good ways to handle it and not so good ways. I've done both. I will continue to handle things badly, but I can keep trying to do better.
We are where we are right now in this country. But I'm having a hard time every day accepting this to be true. I mean, I get it. I understand that it happened and I have come to believe that people voted the way they voted for many different reasons, but my heart is broken. Forever changed. Now I need to move forward. Not just for me but for my kids. For the people in my life that I love even through our differences. I'm trying really hard not group people together and I admit, it's hard.
I've been doing a lot of listening. I've been trying my best to really hear what people are upset about. To respect that and not come in with my two cents. I've been trying to hear what people's fears are, their hopes, their beliefs. I know I have little chance of changing anybody's mind, but I can try to lead by example.
There are a lot of upset folks out here right now. I am one of them. If not for these kids, I fear I would sink into a depression even deeper than this dull sadness that seems to not fade as the days go by. I'm an alcoholic. This has caused me to question if drinking is the right thing to do many times over the last week. At the very least, it makes me want to crush a pack of smokes even though I don't smoke anymore. I won't do it, ultimately, but I'm sure there are many that have and that kills me too. I'm here with you. I'm here.
This is not normal. We are not whiners or complainers if we are sad or mad. We are not sore losers if we are upset and standing up for what we believe to be right. We have a right to grieve. We have a right to take a moment in the grand scheme of things to catch our breath. Don't let anybody rob you of that. Take action in ways you believe in. We need to care for ourselves and our loved ones and all those who feel as though they are losing their voice.
I'm a woman - a white woman to be fair and better off than many - but I am a woman who fears losing women's rights and the ability to make choices for my own body. For my daughter - who will grow up and become a strong woman - who will be making decisions for her body? We tell her it's her. That she has control over her body and nobody else, but is that going to be true anymore?
When I hear my nanny express fear of coming to work or going on a trip because of the color of her skin, well, we have a problem. A really really big problem. That is only going to be emboldened. We've known it was out there, but now it's accepted and voted in. I don't have to be OK with this.
Being good listeners, being kind and being brave will never not serve us well. But that doesn't mean we lie down and take abuse. What is happening today is not normal. If we normalize treating people who are different than us terribly, we are going backwards. We lose the very essence of what makes this country so great. The golden rule is so simple, and yet, so seemingly out of reach to so many right now.
My kids had jokingly started referring to Donald Trump as Donald Dump during the election (completely on their own mind you - and we thought it quite clever) but I had to tell them through gritted teeth that they cannot call him that. They need to call him Donald Trump because he will be our President. Now, has our last President been treated with that much respect by people who didn't vote for him? I don't think so. PARENTING IS SO HARD. But I will continue to teach my kids to be good listeners, to be kind and to be brave. Even when it's really really really hard. We teach them to stand up for people being bullied even when it seems no one else will. Stand up for what is right and good and kind. I have hope and belief in these young people. I have to, or what is the point? I need to do as I say and keep putting this in practice for myself. For them. For all of us. I have to keep looking for the similarities. Every damn day.
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