Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

I think in the span of about seven days I've seen THREE instances where moms have been upset that their kid was treated poorly by other kids. And that's BESIDES what happened in front of me a few weeks ago at the pool with E. I know for a fact that one of these other instances happened with at least one of the parents in earshot or at least in eyesight of their kid being an asshole.

I'm baffled at how parents can let their kids be so mean. I've never been a "not MY kid" kind of mom. Usually I'm blaming my kid before I even know what happened. One thing I can say is that I spend A LOT of time making sure he's a nice kid. I'm never just letting him get away with being the douchebag, hurting other people's feelings.

Summer has officially begun and I spend most of our free time at the town pool. When I'm at the town pool, I'm watching kids at the pool interact. I may look buried in my iPhone, but I have one eye on the phone, one eye on the kids and my ears open like Dumbo. E is an only child. He knows how to entertain himself quite well on his own, but when he's in any social situation, all he wants to do is play with someone. Anyone. They are all kids he doesn't know but has the balls to just ask to play. It's partially my own fault- I know some of these kids, I've seen them be less than nice before, and truth be told- I find their parents to be lacking in the niceness department. And that's putting it mildly. I don't make an effort to chat these people up so E doesn't really know their kids. But he doesn't care- he still wants to play.
I heard one tell him he can't play with him. Then, he just went up to another, smiled, and the kid, looked to be about the same age or a bit older, literally just scrunched his face, stuck his tongue out at him & swam away. I don't advocate violence at all, but I can't say I didn't want to just pop that kid right in his scrunched face. I was literally waiting for him to raise his arms and yell, "O'DOYLE RULES!!"

My child is NOT perfect and there ARE going to be times I'm probably going to have to get on him for something he says that I don't think is the most mannered way to say something. But he IS generally nice. He's just a good-natured, happy kid. BUT. BUT. BUT. I also make SURE he is a nice kid. How? Every single day on the way to school, in that eight minute drive, I talk to him about being friendly, making sure he's inclusive, I ask him how he would feel if someone told him he couldn't play, if they told him he can't be friends with them, etc. We talk about what to do if someone is crying, hurt, getting picked on, etc. We've discussed standing up for people, not being a sheep and not being the ringleader of mean. Yeah, he's four and a half. And it's NEVER too early to make sure your kid isn't a bullying douchebag. Sure, the word bullying is often now being bandied about in all situations, sometimes to the point of overreaction. But then, I see all these little nasty assholes running around with scrunched faces, hearing- "You can't play with us" for no reason except to be mean and then I start thinking that nothing is an overreaction. Well, except for Alexis Bellino on RHOC- she was not bullied. Anyway- I see this stuff, with the parents AROUND, and I'm just astounded. Is In Touch Weekly THAT engrossing that you don't hear it? Are you afraid of your kid? Do you just not care? Or worst yet, do you LIKE that your kid is the Mean Girl type because you think that will keep her Queen Bee of her class?

*I* am not perfect. I've talked plenty of shit. I've judged. It's just a fact of life. People gossip, have opinions...and my opinions tend to be strong. There is a difference though. I don't know if any of what I've said above that I've done could be construed as "right" to do in any way. But anyone that knows me also knows that I am extremely inclusive. If I hear of a cool place to go, I'm sending a mass email. If you're alone on line in a bank, in a store, or anywhere, with me, chances are we are going to be chatting, whether you want to or not. I can't think of a time I've ever purposely excluded someone. I've even had friends over my lifetime that everyone else seemed determined not to like or be nice to but that I felt I understood in a different way and stayed friends. I just don't see the fun in leaving someone out. Especially kids. Why is it a big deal if a kid you don't know wants to play? And why aren't people teaching their kids that it's much better to be inclusive than exclusive??

I'm pretty sure learned this lesson around fifth grade. I watched it happen to others in my "clique". I even vaguely remember being on the phone with another girl who could argue like I could as we discussed why this one picked on girl should be left alone. I was her "lawyer" like in Blubber by Judy Blume. Even then I had the underdog mentality. As I saw people being turned on and excluded from the group that had been part of it since what felt like birth to me, I decided, I didn't like it. I already felt a little on the outside because my mom refused to be "in" with the other moms of that group. My parents weren't part of town stuff, sports, clubs, etc. And they didn't grow up in town. So it was easy for me to sort of slide over to other friends. So I did find other friends. At eleven years old, in sixth grade, I picked a shy, quiet girl to harass into being my friend instead and she's still my friend today.

Even after that though, there were times I was excluded- purposely and publicly. One time it was for months over something so stupid, I can't even believe it happened. But it did. And while I certainly don't need therapy over it, I will never forget how it FELT. And I just knew then, I would never do it to someone else. I can also say now, that it's probably why a big part of my personality is to always be...around...floating in and out of groups but never getting close enough to really be part of one. But I can say with pride and certainty, I always was the one to befriend who others might consider to be the "misfit" and why to this day my husband and his friend say that I always have my own "Wack Pack". I'd much rather be friends with the Janis Ian than be known as a hanger-on of a Regina George.

Unfortunately, it never stops. It starts as kids and just goes on and on and on through adulthood. What matters is what you get out of it and how to cope. Luckily for me, anytime it's ever happened, I learned that I can just make new friends. I don't even hold grudges. I'm just...done. Where I just don't think of the person(s) the same way anymore but I'm not angry or bothered. I've definitely been hurt by feeling like I've been left out as an adult. Especially when there was no discussion or confrontation. I just moped a little, talked some shit, and got over it and found new people to hang with. But I'm going to be thirty-nine. Not nine. Or four, seven or twelve. They DON'T know how to cope, they may live in what seems like too small of a town to just make new friends, and it's just UNNECESSARY to be cruel.

I don't know how many articles and blogs have to be written to get it through people's heads that teaching your kid just the simple art of kindness is a HUGE part of parenting. Although, I'm not sure these kinds of people are reading anything about how behavior affects others. Guess what- if your kid is four, can read, do algebra, and can do a one minute mile, but is not KIND, you FAILED as a parent. Your job isn't simply to keep your kid alive, as Louis CK jokes or to make them into the next Harvard grad. It's to make sure they are a decent human being with regard for others feelings. And no, that doesn't mean contributing to the pussification of our youth. In fact, what IS contributing to that is the child who is entitled and spoiled and never taught proper manners and that the sun doesn't rise and set on their ass. That trophy for everything, school-called-out-because-of-heat (that parents think school should be called off because it's hot irks the living shit out of me) kid is often also the one who is allowed to speak to their parent however they want and if they speak to their parent with disrespect and disregard then of course there is nothing stopping them from treating their peers in a shoddy way.

I can't even properly explain how sad, disappointed, mortified, and angry I would be if I ever got that call that my kid was the bully or the mean kid or the one excluding peers from anything. I'd be nipping that shit in the bud so fast his head would be spinning. You aren't making a doormat of a kid when you make sure he's nice. I think too many people get that confused. They think if they're kid is "too nice" they're going to get walked on. No, no. That's why parenting isn't easy and it isn't for everyone. There is work involved. Not just getting them dressed and fed. But teaching them how to be a good person AND how to recognize & stand up for themselves when someone isn't good to them is paramount. You aren't raising a pussy by teaching them to be nice. And you aren't being a helicopter parent when you hear your kid say something rude, cruel, or nasty to another kid and intervene.

I'm fully aware that my son is going to have to learn how to deal with mean people his whole life. If only there was a way to just eliminate ignorant, mean, asshats from all of our daily existence but we can't. And I know it's part of life to learn how to navigate situations where you're left out and feel bad about it. I can't protect him from everything and I actually don't want to- I want him to have some "street smarts" about him and know how to handle difficult situations. That's why I just sat there, that day at the pool, watching, typing & letting him figure it out. But bet your ass he knows if he ever excludes someone, sticks his tongue out or was just so generally rude for no reason there would be definite consequences.

1 comment:

  1. this makes me so sad to see kids who don't know how include others and just play nice.