|I blurred out any identifying faces for their privacy.|
Here's the deal. E is an only child. Forever. Not only is he an only, it's just the three of us. No cousins either. He's also very outgoing- probably part in nature, part in nurture. He'll play with anyone. Even babies. But nothing is better to him than hanging with the "big boys". For example, we'll be at the pool and there will be a pack of boys playing and swimming. They could be anywhere in age from seven years old through twelve. He has no idea how old they are. They're playing- good enough for him. He wants to play. So he just sort of follows, then insinuates himself into the group, I guess hoping they'll just let him join in. Not unlike Rudolf. You know, the reindeer. But they don't always let him play their games. Some look at him like he has nine heads. Or worse yet, goof on him where he doesn't realize they're doing it.
I watch from afar. Or a-near. I don't step in. I would if it got to where he was upset. Most likely I'd just explain that they're older and they don't want to play. But it hasn't gotten to that point yet. Inside myself I'm wanting to jump up and scream at them that he's little and just wants to be part of their crew but I'm not Rita (she did that once, for real) and I don't think that's productive in the least. But I just know that there is the possibility they're going to ignore him, goof on him, or make him sad. So I'm pleasantly surprised on the occasion that they welcome him.
That's what happened last week. And this time- E didn't approach them. The three boys, led by one "leader" approached E and I. I was trying to teach him to dive and failing miserably. Me, at teaching, him at learning. The leader of the three asked if they could work with him and said that E would be "ship shape in no time". I said, "Sure thing". An opportunity to sit and read my People Magazine? Hell yeah! But I didn't read my magazine. I was listening to the boys.
They were really including him. I could see the heaven on his face. It was like his first "boy-crush". You know- when the older kids pay attention to you and you get to feel important? Then after the diving lesson was over, they proceeded to just play with him. For two and half hours? I was at the pool until 7:30 at night. That never happens. B met us there and got to SIT. Just SIT. And watch. THAT never happens. Not with E. Daddy is the playmate of the male only child. At least in our house.
I asked the leader if he wanted to be a mother's helper. He excitedly said yes before I could even finish. I told him I'd pay him. He said I didn't have to (I will). I gave him my card to give to his parents. I took a photo and posted it on Facebook to find the mom of the leader so I could introduce myself. It turned out I know someone who knows the family. That person hooked us up via FB. Then I waited to hear back like when I was single and waiting for a guy to call me.
I aggressively pursued this. B told me I was going to scare them off. I tried to wait a little but I couldn't take one more day of Ethan asking when he was going to play with this kid again. If I was on WWHL with Andy Cohen and this boy's name was the word of the day, I'd be trashed for the past week. Anyway- She did get back to me and to be a little concise for once (and only in this paragraph), she's cool with her son doing it and we'll figure it out. Telling E was like what I imagine it's like when people who are into Disney tell their kids they're going. E doesn't know much about Disneyworld, but he knows now what it's like to hang with the cool kids. There's a method to my madness. In the immediate- E's behavior is awesome when he hangs out with kids who are on the more reserved side (shout-out Cohen) OR older, well behaved kids. Girls (shout out again, Cohen), and/or boys.
Also, I can't control what E does as he grows up. All I know is that there is a heroin epidemic where I live and probably where many people live. It's not just the "burnouts" anymore. It's the kids you wouldn't expect. I can talk to him about drugs, sex and all the hard stuff. I can talk until I'm blue in the face. I can hawk him. But really, what I need are good role models. Old enough to have some responsibility, but not too old to be relatable or seen as an adult versus more of a peer. Older kids who have good heads on their shoulders. Boys who act in a way I'd want E to act now through later on. Kids with confidence- with the confidence to do good things that other ones might not think or want to do. Like make a little boy feel important. Ones that would reach out to help a little one learn something they're having trouble with- like diving. Or one day- reach out or stick up for them when they see a littler one being harassed or bullied.
I can't be SURE this kid I found is always going to be the good kid. I do pride myself on being a decent judge of character though. But being a good person is part inherent, and part taught. Somehow, at ten, because of some combination of both of those, I found a needle in a haystack. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that his parents care if their kids are good people. I see kids being mean, really MEAN, on the daily. Ethan had two different older kids tease him on his camp bus to the point he told us he was upset. He told them to stop, so they knew it bothered him. But he's five- what is he going to do about it? It was really ruining his time. Sometimes they do it blatantly in front of their parents. I've seen parents do nothing about it. Sometimes it's been to my kid, sometimes to other people's kids. I hear it on the playground and we read it in the news. We have girls stabbing their supposed best friend in the name of pleasing a fictional online character. Leaving her for dead in the woods. Another killing a friend just because they decided they didn't like her anymore (story on Dr Phil TODAY!). A group of elementary school boys torturing a cat for fun. I don't know if we're hearing it more because we have twenty-four hour a day access to news or it's really happening more. But it's scary as hell. If I can find a few here and there that are quality people, I'm stealing them to help guide my boy.
It used to be said that it "takes a village". Well, I don't have a village. I have to cobble together some kind of village. And that's what I'm going to do. I don't know why parents don't make it more of a priority to make sure their kids have compassion and sincerity about them. If there were more who made being a kind person as important as excelling in sports or school, there would surely be less bad news. But it's possibly some associate or mistake kindness with weakness? Kindness for being a wuss? I think in part due to social media and smart phones, some kids have lost that sense of empathy or compassion that makes them feel something like when you deal with people face to face. It's so easy to be mean from behind a screen that it somehow translates into real life. E is no angel. We were recently at a birthday party where I had to put him in a time-out. I can't remember the last time I had to do that and I have no idea what got into him that day. But it was for not listening- not being mean. I know he's not the kid who is going to tell someone they can't play or call them names. I don't think they start out mean, or mean on purpose. The ones that are, I don't think anyone is stopping to explain to them or show them why they don't want to be that person.
There is a piece that's been going around about why we shouldn't teach kids to share. I think it's totally stupid, but fine, that's a different parenting tactic that just is not in agreement with my own. I'm not talking about sharing or not sharing. I'm talking just being NICE. Not excluding someone. Or pointing out or making fun of their weakness. Not exploiting their shortcomings. Not sharing can be rude. I can deal with rude. Purposely hurting someone's feelings on purpose for no reason other than just sport- no. Everyone's hurt someone's feelings by accident. But on purpose is another story entirely and there are some kids who do it for fun.
This whole entry stems from how many people liked that photo and blurb about it I posted. It got about one hundred and seventy likes. And fifteen to twenty comments. Probably one of my most popular posts. My husband asked me if the bar is just set really low. And sadly, I guess that's possible. Maybe because many people can relate to either being treated poorly themselves or seeing it happen to their kids and it resonated with them. People seemed genuinely surprised that there are nice kids out there willing to help and just be nice. I think it's really sad that's where we're at. I was just more happy than anything else. Anyone that knows me is aware that I like to start mother's helpers out young so that when they finally can babysit alone, I have them for a long time before they get too much of a life. It's also difficult to find tweens who really WANT to spend their time playing with little kids, even for money. Some do it just because their friends do or their parents make them. But it shows. There is a real difference between those that really enjoy kids and ones that are doing it for other reasons. Everyone wants the best for their kid(s) and I'm no different. I search for those diamonds in the rough. I've been very lucky and have found a few of the greats.
I guess my point is to take notice. Not of other people's kids but of your own. IS your kid a nice person? Don't let the bar be set so low. Have high expectations of their manners, of how they treat others. If they have a mean moment, teach to it. Don't just yell at them out of embarrassment that they aren't being kind. Role play. Give them a scenario where they experience meanness directed toward them. As far as other people's kids- be observant as to whether there is a group-think meanness mentality. Is there a queen bee that directs her minions to turn on others. Is there a kid you see picked on or left out. Don't just let it go. Because it really might take a village to keep our kids off heroin, from committing suicide, and from stabbing their friends. And we have to start somewhere. It might as simple as teaching kindness and to look out for others like we're all part of something bigger together.