“Who is the boss of you?”
“I am! And, you are. Right, Mommy?”
Yup, that’s right.
In preschool both my kids learned a song called, Let’s Make Room for a Friend. And that song was carried over to two afternoons a week for a year. While they interacted with the other kids at school, they called each person a friend and under close supervision worked out the small problems that cropped up among three year olds still learning words and how-to-share. This lesson spilled over into the playground, into the next year at four year old preschool and then onto big kids’ school. Share, be kind, and make room for a friend.
I preach it, too. I talk to my kids about being inclusive, about apologizing when we’ve done something wrong, having manners and being kind. When Annie asked me, “What is compassion?” I thought, that’s a good question, before I answered her and we had a discussion about what it means to feel for others and to put others before ourselves. Sometimes. And this is where it gets tricky for me.
There aren’t preschool songs about asserting yourself with messages like ‘I don’t make room for people that are colossal jerks’. In our growing tolerance for others and believing in niceness above all else what do we do when someone isn’t playing by the rules and being nice? I’m not talking about a bad day. Everyone has those. I’m talking about consistently bad, borderline malicious behavior toward others. Bullying. I can’t believe that it even happens – that in Kindergarten kids are being steamrolled by a peer. I’m sure they are confused and hurting, too. But, my kids aren’t therapists and I don’t think they should be anyone’s punching bag.
It’s always the twerp that everyone follows. The leader of the pack is the bossiest and the meanest. Why can’t it be the kindest, the one that sets up lemonade stands to raise money for charity? I would settle for someone that just stays out of trouble and doesn’t swear. Ben likes to please, to fit in and I’m watching him being swayed this year by a twerp. I reel him in as much as I can, remind him of who he is and what our standards are. There have got to be times when you don’t make room for a friend, which is what I told him a few days ago. “You don’t have to be friends with this boy. There are plenty of other boys to play with. Good, fun boys. Friends don’t try to control you.”
This year, more than any other year, I feel like a parent. I’m cringing, hoping, stepping in, taking a step back and making impassioned pleas to my kids about everything. Like most parents, I am always wondering if I’m doing, saying the right thing as we navigate through how to be you and what is or is not okay. And if you get stomped on, what should you do? I overheard Ben and this boy, the leader of the pack, talking about a book Ben brought to school. Ben was proudly showing off the second book of a series to him, “Look at what I brought!” The boy said, “Why do you always bring those books? You brought a book like that last time.” Ben’s smile slipped for a second, “Because I like them.” And Ben walked away. It was a small step forward and I was so proud.
That’s right. I’m bringing it back. For my early readers you’ll remember ‘swept up’. If not, this is the portion of the blog when I tell you what I’m, well, swept up in, what I’m into. This week it’s the movie Bridesmaids. I laughed all the way through it. It’s funny and heartfelt. Go see it.