There is a little library room at T’s preschool and that is where I found him, in the middle of a tight little knot of boys, when I arrived to pick him up yesterday. He didn’t see me, so I stood and watched for a bit.
A little girl was trying to be part of the group and she was rebuffed by the boys. She was crying. The teachers were negotiating the rough spot appropriately. My heart ached for her. I was composing the speech in my head for the car ride home-how T should speak up in those situations. How he needs to be kind to all the kids. How he should always stand up for a kid who is being picked on. Because T wasn’t participating in the treatment of the girl, but he was there. Watching.
And then T was mean to her.
Tears sprung to my eyes. He wasn’t a bystander. He was part of the pack. This girl was crying and he was mean. It probably wasn’t the first time he ganged up on a kid, but it was the first time I witnessed it. I called him over to me and demanded he go to her and apologize, which he did.
Last fall I wrote a post about watching a classmate of T’s be mean to him at the playground. I wrote that as much as it hurt to watch another kid be mean to T, I knew it was only a matter of time before T was mean himself. Knowing that with my head almost a year ago is really different from feeling it now. I felt helpless and horrible and fiercely overprotective that day last fall. Yesterday I felt worse. I felt helpless and horrible and disappointed. I am disappointed that T made the choice to be mean. I am disappointed that my parenting hasn’t been good enough to prevent this. I am disappointed that my expectations both for T and myself are completely unrealistic. T is not a perfect child. He is a regular kid. I am not a perfect Mom (Said in Severus Snape’s voice, “Obviously”). I am a Mom who loves her kids and makes tons of mistakes everyday. Both of us need to try harder. Both of us will mess up. Our characters aren’t ruined by a single bad choice.
We did talk a lot about it yesterday. I asked him how he would feel if he was crying and someone was mean to him. He said he’d feel bad. But he also said that she wasn’t his friend. Oh boy, that is a whole other ball of wax. I cannot force him to be friends with every child he comes across. I did tell him that being nice was not something we just did with our friends. We treat others the way we want to be treated. We protect those who are being picked on. I told him that one day he might be the kid that is being picked on and I hope on that day another kid would stand up for him.
Z and I want so much for our boys. We want them to be happy, we want them to learn the value of hard work, we want them to have fun, we want them to use their intelligence, we want them to be responsible. But mostly we want them to be compassionate. Some days I feel so ill equipped for this parenting gig. I feel helpless and frustrated and angry. No matter how much I desire it I have no idea how to raise respectful and kind children. I put too much pressure on T. I expect the behavior of a much older child.
Raising the boys is the most important job I will ever have. So every mistake on my part or their part feels amplified. It is hard to remember that we have almost two decades until they are grown. The four years that I’ve been a Mom have gone faster than any others in my life. Yes, we have almost two decades, but I’ll blink and that time will be over. The day that T was mean to a girl in preschool is not going to be the defining moment of those two decades. Neither is my handling of that situation.
Child rearing is a lot like marriage. Constant, overwhelming work. I can’t think of any work that is more worth it. In both cases the rewards are the best parts of my life. As I say goodnight to T each evening I sing him a silly little song I stole from Z called Mommy Hugs (yes, it was Daddy Hugs when Z used to do it). A few nights ago T told me he wanted to sing me a new song instead. As he held onto me he sang, “I love Mommy hugs! Mommy gives the best hugs in the world!” It was the highlight of my week.
And today when I picked T up he called to me that the little girl from yesterday also likes Transformers. So he interacted with her today. He made an effort. I still wanted to grab her and give her a hug and tell her I was sorry yesterday was a rough day for her. Instead she and T leaned against me and I read them Cinderella. While successfully swallowing all snarky comments about what a misogynistic piece of shit the story was. I didn’t want to ruin the moment.
Our niece G visited last week. We really did try to get a nice picture of the cousins. At least Z is cooperating.
Z’s 40th birthday present. Isn’t it amazing? Hopefully we’ll get back to Baltimore this fall to get the color done. And so I can get another one myself….
World Breastfeeding Week just wrapped up, but here’s one of C and me to celebrate.