There’s nothing quite like the guttural, deeply penetrating ache of a parent’s protective instinct.
My mama bear instincts kicked in as I watched my son from across his classroom the other day, but I had to play it cool. Because apparently, that’s the proper thing to do as the adult in these situations. The all-knowing parent. (Except I’m not all-knowing. Hoo-boy, not even close.) And also, because I was “Mrs. Mills,” on duty as a helper in his classroom that day and I was in the middle of working my way down a reading list with 27 adorable but fidgety classmates of his.
I had to get through the tale of Kitty Cat and her Illustrious Gang of Needle-Nosed Hedgehog Thugs … fast, and how!
When I finally made my way over to his circle table, I knelt down and asked him what the matter was. I moved my head down and around to meet his eyes, folding and crunching my 6-foot frame (I was wearing heels and I’m an Amazon, okay?) to get on his level. He shared with me some details of his kindergarten life from the past few days. He spoke of his former BFF having a new BFF and a few other names of children in other grades having some unkind things to say to him, specifically during recess. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there.
I searched within for the right thing to say. Words of comfort were all I could offer, I had no words of wisdom. It’s just so awful to see your kid like that. All squished up with emotion and hurt. My brain meandered off to envision him on the playground, being teased and pointed at.
Dark art! That is what wading through difficult emotions is, no matter what our age. This is my job now, explaining as such to my highly sensitive, intelligent little slice of off-spring.
Later that night he was sketching on his magna doodle. There in black and grey was the name “Amanda” scrawled in his fine penmanship with a big fat heart underneath with a cracked line drawn down the center of it. (!!!) How do I make one of the most loyal four year olds around understand about fickle hearts and mean spiritedness?
Obviously I’m partial to my son’s unique charm. He is younger than almost all of his peers yet academically advanced, highly creative, and goofy. He is the very definition of a “performing arts kid.” Older folks fall in love with his carefree effervescence in an instant. Most kids his age watch him warily for a few minutes and either join in on the fun or walk away. And that’s fine. Not everyone has to like him. He’s a bon-vivant; articulate in both voice and body, always theatrical and ready to perform. He can tell you which song and by whom you just heard on the radio faster than most adults could. His main hobby at the moment is perfecting all of Michael Jackson’s dance moves (he studies that shit like nobody’s business) and memorizing music liner notes. What is endearing to me, is like an invitation to be teased by (some) others.
Wyndham is sensitive and affectionate. He’s a hugger and open with his heart and who he lets in. Am I supposed to teach him to be more reserved? There’s fine line between wanting to teach him to respect personal space and to never let go of his charming, unique ways. These are unteachable traits. Right now he’s learning to harness them and who am I to step in the way of his genius?
I know that it’s important for him to develop his own self-worth outside of how other people judge and perceive him to be. I definitely want to help him develop a thick skin, because as it were, I know all to well that kids like him do indeed get picked on.
The issue I have, is that there is an unspoken expectation on children today: if they want to fit in, they should try to fit the mold better. They should be less goofy, put their hand up a little less, save the performance art for those you know who give a damn, etc., etc., etc. Or else you quickly fall in the misfit pile. As my husband and I discussed our son last night at the dinner table, a little part of me screamed inside and my voice much more respectively tried to reason, “No! I will not squash him down! Screw what other people think!” (That’s our dynamic. I’m the hot-blooded one, he is the voice of reason.)
Am I missing something here? Should I shaping him to be more controlled and socially acceptable? Pondering such things makes my upper lip furl in a snarl a bit, I must admit. But this is the world we live in, I hear; I am told. We can’t change how other people raise their kids; to not be bullies. We just have to teach our son to learn how to deal with it and develop a thick skin.
Everyone, everywhere, whoever breaks my son’s heart or makes him feel like a freak when he gets theatrical will deal directly with me, I want to harp. But, alas, I know that this would not be a true statement. I can’t always be there. I can’t always protect him. Especially at the tender kindergarten age. It definitely would not be acceptable of me to lay my wrath upon a kid who is being a jerk to mine. They are, after all, still figuring out their own stuff and who knows what they might have going on at home?
So the true question remains, “who is having a tougher time with all of this right now? Me … or him?”
(I have since spoken in more detail with my son’s teacher about the outside teasing and she and the other teachers who share recess duties are on the case. I have to trust in that I suppose, and probably refrain from going over to the school at recesses, right?)
More Babbles From Selena …
- Are Super-Dads The Archetype of Millennial Fathers?
- To The Parents With Kids Who Have Public Meltdowns
- My Wedding May Not Have Looked Like Yours, But it Was Still Traditional
- Dodging Land Mines, One Blog Post at a Time
- 10 Things I Swore I Wouldn’t Do With My Daughter (and Now I am)
Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Part-time mischief maker, all-the-time geek. Find her elsewhere on the Internets, mastering in general mayhem.