As a Mom, you know it’s a given that you are going to have to teach your children many things…from potty training, to don’t run out in the street, to eat your veggies, to don’t talk to strangers. You are their teacher. You are shaping the way they view right and wrong. If you really sit down and think about it, that’s a huge responsibility. A much bigger responsibility than my Monday morning brain wants to grasp.
Now admittedly I’ve gotten off easy so far in my mother career. I mean the talks I’m having now with my children fail in comparison to the talks their teenage years are going to bring. But still, with each passing year the lessons get more complicated and much more important.
This weekend in the "Mandi Lesson Plan of Parenting" we had the lesson of “What to do when confronted with a name caller”, or the “I am rubber you are glue” lesson. This weekend I was out in my back yard enjoying the nice fall weather with my kids. We decided to rake all the leaves into a giant pile so the kids could do the standard fall tradition of jumping in the leaves. H and I started raking the leaves while Miss Diva J stood and “supervised”.
Our neighbor girls were out in their yard and called J over to the fence. I started to work my way along the fence line, because with these particular kids I keep a close watch considering they’ve done everything from showing my children a lighter to coaxing them into leaving their fenced in back yard without permission. The topic of the day was nothing new…J told them about the Elf on the Shelf that had arrived at her house and the girls wanted to see it. J told them she couldn’t bring him out and is the norm, the girls gave their typical “disobey your Mom” speech. “Come on J, just go get it. She won’t see you.” The battle of go do it-no I can’t went on for about 5 minutes.
Now J is wise beyond her years, and is always mindful of towing the line. She is smart enough to know that one minute of “ooh look at your elf” is not worth the risk of a punishment or disappointment from Mom and Dad. So I was proud to see her not back down.
The girls who obviously were fed up with J’s answer and angry with me for telling her she couldn’t bring him outside decided to turn their attention toward me…. “Well your Mom is fat.”
And there it was, the conversation just got interesting. Trust me, it’s not the fact that I was called a name by 5 year olds that made me extremely interested in this conversation. Yes, girls after three children and a busy working Mom life, I like most Mommies could stand to lose a few pounds….so yes you got me. But, I was really curious to see J’s reaction. This is the first time I was witnessing her being confronted with a name caller. How would she react??? Would she laugh, join in, walk away?
J didn’t seem too phased by the comment, probably because names are no stranger to these particular girls. J has had to listen to them call her brother stupid, her dog mean, and watch them call each other every name under the sun.
J had no clue how to react. She looked at me to see if I had heard the comment and probably secretly hoped she wouldn’t be found guilty by association. She made the typical nervous laugh that most kids make when in a setting like this. She had no clue what to do.
When we came inside I sat J down. It was time for a lesson. I wanted to make sure that if she was put in this situation again, she’d not have the blank stare and laugh reaction. We walked inside. “I didn’t say anything.” she said to me.
I told J I knew she wasn’t the name caller, but I wanted her to know that as the receiver of the information she could hurt people’s feelings as well depending on her reaction. So I started in on the lesson…a lesson in dealing with name callers, bullies, and not-so-nice kids. The look in my daughter’s eyes was a bit heart breaking. It was as if it was sort of her first “life is not a fairy tale” talk. I mean come on…no one told Cinderella she was stupid, or Sleeping Beauty that she should hit the treadmill. I explained to J that it was important not to laugh when someone is called a name, because next time it might be a kid on the playground who would be hurt by the comment.
I’m not sure I truly got through to her…I mean how much can you really get through to a 5 year old that has never been called anything negative before. I gave her all the typical stuff…the “I am rubber you are glue” / “Sticks and stones”/ God made all of us different speech. I’m sure I sounded like I was a defense attorney retained by all the bullied kids in America. The blank look in her protected eyes showed me that this is one lesson she is going to have to learn through experience. I can say anything I want, but until she is on the other side of a name calling, I don’t know if she’ll ever truly understand.
So can I please go back to the years of teaching my kids about sunshine and butterflies? The fact that this lesson was hard for me to teach shows me that I have my work cut out for me in the next 15 plus years. (Sigh).