Let's get one thing straight. We are not all friends. You and I are, of course, but we can all name at least one person with whom we would never EVER, say, go gab a cup of coffee... or brake for if we saw crossing the street. (I am talking about you, boy who teased me unmercifully for being both short and bespectacled in Middle School. Which I still am. Except for the "Middle School" part. Btw, how did your cell mates feel about you being a complete asshat during your short, but oh-so deserved stint "up-state"? Ah, catharsis...) Avioding the asshats in all our lives is normal. It is okay. If we spend our life trying to like everyone and make everyone like us then we will have a very unfulfilled life indeed. I mean, don't be an asshat but don't strain yourself either, right?
If this seems a bit spewy for a Thursday morning, well ... it is. But here's why.
Sass Monkey started kindergarten this school year and, for the most part, it has been a wonderful experience. He can already count to 100, read sight words, wiz through his flash cards AND... he already has a class bully. HE. IS. 5. Wtf? This kid isn't just a problem for my son, mind you, he terrorizes the ENTIRE CLASS, and two days ago, this child took it from verbal nonsense to physical. He punched my son in the stomach so hard he knocked the wind out of him on the playground.
(Give me a sec... my head may just explode. Not a mama bear. Not a mama bear. I am people. People are rational.)
Now, this is being handled (oh, believe you and me, Hubbs and I are going to handle the hell out of this one.), but the hardest part isn't knowing my child was hurt. The worst part is watching the complete disbelief and confusion crawl across my son's face when he talks about the incident. He doesn't understand WHY. And why should he?
From day one we teach our children that we all are "Friends". "Friends" play together. "Friends" share. "Friends" don't chuck mulch at each other on the playground. Even when kids are less than friendly they are still "Friends"; binding them forcibly together in some odd notion of happy-go-lucky, Utopian nonsense.
Haters gonna hate on this one, I know, but now my son is wrestling with the idea that maybe "Friends" can hurt you but you are still called "Friends". So where does sticking up for himself come into play in all of this? How can he defend himself if he follows all the "friend" rules? The short answer is.. he can't. I have unintentionally programmed him to just take it.
But here's the next problem. Teaching a child that everyone is a potential friend isn't bad. It's really, really good. It helps them learn to share and be kind. It helps them to become outgoing and good-natured. It teaches them to treat others like they want to be treated... and it also hobbles them. We have now been forced to have the conversation that, well, everyone isn't actually your friend. If someone is unkind to you, you don't have to try and play with them. This alien concept has further confused poor Sass Monkey.
So... now... what the hell do we do? The fuzzy cocoon of playdate-parenting has just been ripped open to let in some of the bigger uglies of the world and I feel like I have really let my baby boy down on this one. It's a harsh truth that we all know about but hide from them... aaaaand it's a biggie. I don't want to teach my children fear or mistrust but there must be a middle ground somewhere! How do I teach my children to stand up for themselves and shout "No!" while helping them understand that, for the most part, we really all can be "friends"?
Are we protecting them or, for a short while, just protecting ourselves?