I have said before I never intended to become a mother. I didn’t get married for the first time until I was 34, and that was to a man who didn’t want to have children because of health issues he had. That marriage ended when I was 39, and I didn’t marry The Bob until I was 40, and he had 2 kids already so we were of the same mind that children were not part of The Agenda.
The universe laughs when you make plans.
There was also this little thing about kids that, quite frankly, I did not need to experience. A little thing I like to call The Pain and Agony of Dealing with Other Kids. You see, I have already done my time. I have already BEEN a kid, I have already experienced the basic nastiness of other children, survived the teen years filled with hormones and angst. I have earned my stripes. This self confidence, this ability to be happy in my own skin, it is the result of years of dealing with both making good friends and feeling loved by others as well as being disappointed by people over and over again. Because that is life.
It is one thing to experience these things for yourself, to say OK, that sucked but I am still here and I am a good and worthwhile, lovable person. At 47 years of age I have learned to make different choices than I did at 7 or 14 or 24 or even 34.
It is an entirely DIFFERENT thing to experience it all over again through the eyes of my child. Now when disappointment strikes, not only do I get to feel the annoyance and frustration, but I get to watch my 5 year old experience it, and begin to figure out how to navigate these treacherous waters of life. And that SUCKS.
I love being his mom, don’t get me wrong. There are so many awesomely astounding milestones and it is truly mind boggling that these little people grow and figure things out and become fabulous people. But the flip side of this is that they have to deal with other people. Specifically other kids. And if you have spent any time around more than 2 or 3 kids in your life, you know that kids can be mean. They are just condensed versions of grown ups and have even fewer filters than most adults.
Recently Cooper has been experiencing the disappointment of someone who has been one of his best friends at school being mean to him. It is not unusual for alliances to shift at this age. You spend a few months being best friends with one kid, then all of a sudden this other kid is the only one you want to play with. But this is different than that. All of a sudden this small fry began teasing Cooper, specifically by calling him names and telling him he is stupid, or can’t play with him and this other kid unless he behaves a certain way.
The names are nonsense. He calls Cooper things like ballerina and pawpaw and tells him he has to have googly eyes in order to play with him. Cooper doesn’t even know what that means. But it is a distinct shift in attitude toward Cooper. I don’t think there is a particular intention to hurt Cooper, but I do think this kid is testing boundaries and much of it he is learning, I believe, from his older brother who is almost 8. That kid is someone we have spent some time around, he is someone who borders on being a bully. He always wants to be in charge, he looks for opportunities to make fun of someone or say something slightly hurtful. I think our friend deals with this brother at home, puts up with all of his bossiness and then tries to assert some control in other places in his life, like at school, with my son.
Cooper is not a fan of this behavior. Coop is just about playing and acting out super hero stories and riding bikes and having a good time. When he tells me that this kid called him names at school, or told him he couldn’t play unless he did something, I can see the hurt and confusion. I can tell it is changing how he feels about this kid, because I asked Cooper if he wanted to set up a play date with him, and there was a very long pause, and then a distinctly ambivalent “Okaaaaay…”
The thing I cannot decide is should I do anything about it. If this was someone who lived in the neighborhood, someone we saw all the time, I would probably be able to help Coop negotiate this as it happened, because I would be likely to witness it, or I could have a conversation with a parent and ask if something was going on that was bothering the child in question and making him behave this way toward Cooper. But this is someone he only sees at school. They live in another town, and at the end of August they won’t go to school together ever again. The only way they would see each other is if I make the effort to arrange getting together.
I could talk to his mom. We exchange emails to set up play dates periodically, we have spent time chatting during these play dates. She is approachable. But the question is should I? I would need to find a way to say “Hey, your kid is acting like a little shit” without saying it that way. I would want it to be productive, not hostile. But there is a good chance that no matter how I said it it could be perceived as hostile.
I have been telling Cooper that if he doesn’t like what this kid is saying, tell him he doesn’t like it, that it is mean and he is hurting his feelings. And if he doesn’t stop it, he won’t play with him. There are 15 kids in the class, there are other people to play with. I tell him I don’t know why this kid is being mean, but he does NOT have to put up with it.
Right now that seems like the best we can do. Give him the tools to deal with crap from others and console him when disappointed by other people. Because that is never going to not happen. We can just hope that there are plenty of people who come through as true friends to offset the other stuff.