Conversations with O after school…
Me: How was school?
O: Ooooh, fine.
Me: Did you have a good day?
Me: What did you do today?
O: I did lots of stuff. (He’s very forthcoming, that child of mine)
Me: Like what? What was your favorite part of the day?
O: Recess. Baker hit me.
Me: Excuse me? Baker hit you?
Me: On purpose or on accident?
O: I don’t know.
Me: Then what happened?
O: I told the teacher. Baker had to go to the wall.
Me: Okay… Did he apologize?
Me: Then what happened?
O: Mom, I’m so hungry.
And that was the end of the conversation for him. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I tried to bring it up again when his father got home, but he didn’t elaborate any further. I think it bothered me more than it bothered O.
This is the part I’ve been dreading as a parent. And I don’t think I’m alone when I say that. As a matter of fact, I know I’m not. I’ve read post after post all around the internet from bloggers (and twitterers and facebookers) about how they’re worried their child will grow up to be THAT child. The bully. And I’ve also read post after post on the internet about how we need to support our children, and be open with them so they can be open with us in turn. Talk to us about their feelings and what’s going on at school (or at home, or in their little heads) so that things like school shootings and suicides don’t happen.
I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t nice to my peers. My dad told me that a girl came up to him at my step brother’s graduation and told him I hit her in the hallway (which, by the way, I don’t remember doing. And I STILL maintain that I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t hit other people in other hallways as a kid). I was a bully. I picked on younger kids, I picked on older kids, I picked on kids my own age. I held a girl up against her locker in front of half of her classmates and threatened her, only to find out later she was “related” to me by “marriage” (or a long term relationship on my mother’s part that ended several years later). I WAS that kid. At school and at home (that’s right, I bullied my own parents).
I’m not bragging. I’m NOT proud of what I was/did back then. There’s no excuse for it. There’s no pride in it. There’s nothing I can do to change it. I only know that I felt like shit about myself back then, and that was my way of showing it. And I was not alone.
I worry about O. He is NOT like me. He has these emotions that he feels so fiercely (which is actually a lot like me), but he’s so soft. He’s not your “typical” boy. I worry about him being bullied by other kids. I worry about him getting in the middle of a scuffle at school because he’s just trying to fit in. I worry that he doesn’t quite understand what is hurtful and what is not.
We talk all the time about how hitting is NEVER okay. How being physical with someone is NEVER okay. You keep your hands to yourself, and you mind what you say to people, because words can hurt just as bad (sometimes more) than pushing/hitting/kicking someone.
But he’s a boy. And boys are physical little creatures. Especially at this age. Ninjas, super heroes, shoot ’em up type stuff… they’re some of his favorite things (and ours too, I’m not gonna lie). When his friends come to play, there’s sword fighting, and pretend fighting and all this physical stuff. Because let’s be real, at some point they have to figure out their own boundaries. It’s REALLY not that uncommon for this age.
But there is a line. And it needs to be very clear. And that’s why we talk about it all the time. ALL THE TIME. And why, when things get out of hand when friends come to play, swords go up and kids go to time out. And apologies and hugs are given, and received, and it’s understood that hitting each other on purpose is not okay. And that accidents happen.
I worry about him when he’s at school. I find myself holding my breath when he tell me that so-and-so got hurt on the playground. I try not to stew about it when he’s not here. Because the best thing I can do as a parent is talk to him about it, ALL THE TIME. Explain what’s okay and what’s not okay. Tell him how hurting people makes you feel, and why it’s never okay. Make sure he knows what to do if someone is hurting him, who to tell, and that hurting someone back is never okay. That’s all I can do.
What do YOU do with the kiddos in your life? How do YOU talk to them about violence, accidental or not?