Image courtesy of www.MeanStinks.com. Check out the site for expert advice on how we can all work to stop bullying.
My son is an only child. For better or worse, he is where my husband and I focus all of our love and attention. And like all parents, when that kiddo hurts emotionally or physically, I physically hurt, too. In fact, my need to protect this kid can only be described as a primordial, raw urge — unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.
So when he came home from school one day last year, inconsolable, in tears, because “Cindy”* had told him he had been taken off the “Official Friends List” that was going around his first-grade classroom, I was livid. Livid. The list was supposed to guide who played with whom and who got invited to birthday parties. All very organized for a bunch of snot-nosed brats who can’t do multiplication yet, don’t you think? And who did this little bossy-pants, Mean Girl-in-training think she was, hurting my little boy’s feelings like that? (Mama Bear Alert!)
At a fairly low parenting point, I comforted our son with words that I’m pretty sure are not listed in any Love & Logic parenting manual. I told him that unfortunately there are cruel people in this world and that Cindy was obviously one of them. I reminded him that while he (boy genius that he is) was reading at age 2, she was probably still eating her own poop back then. I also told him to go straight to school tomorrow and tell Cindy that if she was mean to him one more time, I was gonna straighten her out like a piece of wire. (Texas-Raised Mama Bear Alert!)
Ummmm. Yeah. So I basically advised my son to threaten another child. A child that probably had all kinds of her own issues and insecurities going on in that little developing brain of hers. (Did I say little? Oops.)
In my pseudo-defense, I *think* he knew I was kidding. And I did advise him to stick with the kids who treated him nicely. I also talked with my son’s teacher. I’d read a lot about elementary school bullying, and these kinds of “friends” lists could be precursors to more aggressive bullying behavior.
The teacher agreed, and Cindy was forced to apologize to my son and cough up the friends list. (Which was an actual written document. Oh, the power of a crayon-wielding child.) Also, the whole class had a discussion about why a friends list could be hurtful, and the teacher tore up the list in front of all the kids.
Take that, Cindy Sensational.
Score one for Mama Bear.
Fast-forward to second grade. We were overjoyed (sarcasm) to see that Cindy was in our son’s class again this year. But after several weeks, our son reported that Cindy had been ousted from the good graces of several of the other little girls in the class and had asked to be his friend again.
I know you’ll be surprised that my first reaction was another not-so-stellar moment. I thought, “Aha! Guess the little Drama Queen is getting what she deserves. Karma, girlie, karma!” Luckily, I didn’t say it out loud this time.
My son has now been inviting Cindy to play with him and his group of friends at recess (even though he says she is NOT a very good spy at all).
He didn’t want her to feel bad and left out, he says.
Obviously, in this instance my son is more mature than a) Cindy and b) his mother.
And yes, I’m proud of him. For his kindness. For his sensitivity. For doing the right thing. For treating others the way he would like to be treated.
It’s times like these that I think I’m learning more from him than he’s learning from me.
But then again, there’s this one little kid who’s been making fun of how my son runs in P.E. …
* Names have been changed to protect the guilty … and just in case her mom reads this post.