For those of you who read my post a few weeks back, you are aware that Stink had a rocky start to school. It got a bit better, but then it kind of went downhill again.
Turns out the same kids who have been giving him a hard time since kinder are back at it again. This time, instead of making comments about his tics, they are just doing the passive aggressive “we don’t like you” dance. Actually, they might have actually said the words “we don’t like you” at one point, but since our school does not allow for this sort of talk, it progressed into silent avoidance.
For whatever reason, I am not falling apart emotionally over this. Part of the reason is that Stink really knows who he is and it doesn’t define him. Also, while I’m not a fan of the mob mentality, I also know that not all kids are going to get along all the time. That’s just not reality.
Of course it bothers me – enough so to write a post about it – but the way I see it, there’s a balance between teaching your kid that the world doesn’t revolve around them and teaching them how to stand up for themselves. And, since I’m such a big fan of an upgrade, this balance always includes transformation, both for my kid as well as the child who is hurting enough to lash out at my kid.
Here’s a conversation we had last week on the subject. Pick and choose what works for you and feel free to give suggestions!
Stink: Linus and Chuck are being mean to me again at lunch.
Me: What is the problem exactly?
Stink: Whenever we play handball, they don’t want to do the “trampoline” which is a cool move I made up.
Me: Maybe they don’t like that rule. Sorry, dude, but you can’t control everything.
Stink: I know that. But I have to play their rules, like the “rainbow” and the “snowball slider.”Plus, they go out of their way to pick me last.
Me: Oh. (Starting to bristle.) Well that’s not cool. (Insert new approach.) Why don’t you play with your other friends at lunch instead?
Stink: Why would I do that? I like handball. Why shouldn’t I be able to play that?
Me: Good point. Why don’t you talk to them about it?
Stink: I did, today.
Me: And what did they say?
Stink: Nothing. (His eyes fill with tears.) They just went to the other side of the handball court and ignored me.
Me: Oh. (Now I’m mad.) That must have hurt your feelings.
Stink: It did.
A tear rolls down his cheek.
Me: (Putting on my therapist hat) Well, you know that kids who talk to you like that are lashing out because they have a hard time at home or they just feel bad about themselves.
Stink: I know. But that doesn’t make me feel better.
Me: Of course not. So this is where we need a plan.
Stink: (Eyes lighting up.) Like what?
I go in dressed like a Mama sumo wrestler and squash them like a bug. It’s entirely up to you. 1. You can decide you don’t want to play there. 2. You can talk to them.
Stink: I already told you I did that.
Me: I know! Congrats – you’re half way there! So now we’re at #3. You can talk to someone on yard duty. If that doesn’t work, #4 is to talk to your teacher and suggest a PLC. (Translation: A PLC is our charter school’s hippy dippy language for Peaceful Learning Circle. The kids sit on the rug Pow Wow style and talk about their feelings with the teacher acting as moderator. It implements communication and fosters connection. It’s actually quite helpful. I find when I employ a similar technique with my husband – as opposed to falling on the floor and pounding my fists into the hardwood because we disagree over the price of organic asparagus – it proves quite effective.)
Stink: I can’t do a PLC because one of the kids is in the other class. Besides, the teachers talk about bullying all the time. It doesn’t make a difference with Linus and Chuck.
Me: You can talk to Principal Jay. He just told you last week he’d work with you if you had any problems.
Stink: I know. (Arms crossed.) But if I talk to Jay, and he talks to the kids, then those boys will hate me even more and I don’t want that!
Me: Then that leaves you with Option #1 – Don’t play with them. Avoid them. Move on.
Stink: But I want to play handball!
And so, like the many looping conversations in my brain from a few years back when I was trying to figure out how to solve Tourettes, around and around we go for ten minutes.
Until I’m exhausted and can’t take it anymore.
Me: Sounds to me like you really don’t want a solution to this problem. You want to complain, but you don’t want to take the necessary steps needed to rise above it.
His eyes light up as he lands on the Lottery Ticket solution.
Stink: I know! You can home school me!
Me: No way. That’s me fixing the problem. I won’t resort to that until you have done everything in your power to fix it yourself.
Stink: But I can’t fix those kids, Mama. They won’t change.
Ah, now we’re where the magic happens. As a mother, I find myself teetering between pride and enthusiasm for internal growth and wanting to vomit on kitchen tile.
Me: I get it. I know what it’s like to want to change something so bad but no matter what I try, I can’t. And so I must fix myself. And so must you.
Me: Acceptance. You must accept a few core things.
Stink: Like what?
Me: Well, you can start with the one basic truth which, as sad is this sounds, is this: They don’t like you.
Stink: You really think so?
His face is sinking. I look him straight in the eye.
Me: Yup. (I shrug my shoulders and say it slowly for emphasis.) They. Don’t. Like. You.
I give him a second to let that sink in. If this were a movie, it would be the equivalent of taking a machine gun and blasting my kid to bits. But, since magic happens in the movies, my kid would also miraculously rise up from despair thanks to some healing words.
Me: The fact is that you are smarter than them. You are kinder than them. You are funnier than them and, in the long run, you will be far more successful than them. But for now, you just have to get through fifth grade and hang out with the kids that do love you. There are so many!
Stink: I know. But I just don’t understand. Why they would act like that?
My son is looking at me with such concern – my beautiful boy who, despite being relentlessly obstinate and stubborn at times, doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He is caught between being a child and being a teenager. I take a chance and tell him a few more core truths about life.
Me: Some kids are really broken, baby. We need to extend kindness and grace and forgiveness.
Stink: But what if that doesn’t work?
I finally admit defeat and go for the jugular.
Me: Just remember that they’re assholes.
I’m pretty sure I’m not going to win Mother of the Year for my choice language. But given the huge grin that spreads over my kids face and the conspirational nod of his head, I’m pretty sure he finally got the point.