when friends are twerps

“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.

Swept Up

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.

6 thoughts on “when friends are twerps

  1. Suz Broughton

    Oh, I have been here. This is one reason why we held my Ben back a year. It was just what he needed to have the confidence to stand up for himself and not be friends with meanies. My Ben is the same, a people pleaser, a follower. This will all get sorted out. It’s much harder with girls, but I know you’ll do just fine. Keep teaching them about compassion and being a good friend. I can finally see it paying off with Emily.

  2. Christy

    Good for Ben! You’re such an awesome mom Heidi. These situations are going to be do tough for U’s soon- I just know it.

    Ok – putting Bridesmaids on my list – I’ve never heard of it but if it makes you laugh that’s good enough for me!

  3. IntenseGuy

    If your little man has even half the “class” and “dignity” of his mom, he’s going to be someone the world looks to – for reassurrance that people can be good and do good things.

    You wrote this entry with … shall we say, new-found confidence in your ability to write and to express yourself – on a difficult topic – and your words made a picture in my head – and I smiled, when I read “‘Because I like them.’ And Ben walked away.” I was reminded of a well-done moment of a TV series or movie… sort of a “Hallmark” moment without it being … trite or cheesy – but rather, so real.

    Thank you – for reassuring me that people can be good and do good things.

  4. Toriz

    All you can do is your best with your kids, and hope they make the right choices. Sounds like you have two pretty smart kids there!

  5. Kate Coveny Hood

    Now I really want to see Bridesmaids.

    I worry about kindness all the time…people being kind to Oliver…the twins being kind to their school friends… I was a nice kid. I always felt responsible for the feelings of others. It still hurts me to the core when I see children being cruel to each other – even if it’s just preschool acting out, learning how to assert themselves, testing limits, or even self defense! I just hate it. And I don’t understand it. It’s such an alien concept for me – to be intentionally cruel.

    The reason why the mean ones have followers is fear. Fear of being the target. But is it better to be a toadie? Children are the most primal version of ourselves. They’re not encumbered by etiquette or concern for bridge burning. They’re acting out the dramas that we conduct on a far more passive aggressive level. they try out different roles, establish leadership and find their various niches. It may actually be necessary for their social development… But that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

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