Monday, October 22, 2012
Sweet boy, tough day
Today was Luke and Will's first day of being back at school after 3 weeks of tracking out (basically taking a break during the year). I expected some drama. Luke has been trying out a camp a week for the past 3 weeks - learning about the wonders of the great outdoors, trying out ice skating, and most recently, he spent a week at a cooking camp. He loved it.
I picked him up from school today and he was upset about something. He didn't want to talk about it immediately. How do kids so young learn to bottle things up? I pressed a little further. He told me that he didn't want to go back to school tomorrow. He wanted to go back to Lil' Chef (the cooking camp).
Trying not to push too hard but still trying to get some details on the day, I asked Luke if he had a tough day with behavior. He said he did not (and showed me the happy face on his daily sheet). I asked him if he was tired or hungry. He said he was not (and proceeded to show me that the only thing remaining in his lunchbox was a couple of carrots because I gave him too many with his lunch).
Then I asked if someone at school made him sad. I hoped the answer was no... because with all the news coverage of school bullying, this is something I am terrified of as a parent.
Unfortunately, he said yes. There was a person in his after school program who was calling him "little." And then he started to cry. He doesn't want to be little, he wants to be big. As much as I tried to reason with him and tell him he needs to eat more to grow, the tears coming from his eyes told me that the reasons didn't matter. He wouldn't be able to understand that he was born early, he started out little, and has a lot of growing to do to make that up.
My heart broke. My eyes got teary. I didn't know what to say. As parents, our first desire is to protect our kids... to keep them from pain and from hurt. As much as I know that some of these situations are inevitable and real, it doesn't mean that I want any of my kids to go through them.
My head ran through a range of thoughts... the first of which was to call the school. And say what? Someone hurt Luke's feelings by calling him little? Is that bullying? Teasing? Is he blowing something completely out of proportion? Is there an answer? All I knew was that someone said something and he was sad... so sad... like I've never seen him before.
Then I went all irrational. I wanted to take him out of school, send him to private or parochial school where they don't let you make people feel this way. But I know... kids from every different type of school have some story about a time when they felt ashamed or belittle or ostracized.
Then I went even more irrational... perhaps we should teach him snappy come backs? Something mean to say back to his antagonist?
"Hey Luke, you're little!"
"Hey Antagonist, you're ugly!"
Obviously I did not teach this to Luke... and obviously having these thoughts were not my crowning moment as a mom trying to teach a son to be independent, strong, sweet, and empathetic.
Luke went out to dinner with Oma. A good change of pace for him, and good one on one time. It also gave me and Nate some time to regroup on strategy. Thankfully he's less emotional than I am.
At bed time, Nate and Luke had a bit of quiet discussion on the day's events. Rather than teach Luke how to punch someone in the eye when they insulted him, Nate advised Luke to walk away. He reminded him that if someone was making him sad, he didn't need to sit there and take it. He always has the right to get out of a situation that makes him upset.
I hope that some of these techniques sunk in. As I listened from the door, I could still hear Luke crying about not wanting to go back to school. Shortly thereafter, Nate switched off the light and Luke was quiet.
Within moments, though, I could hear him whimpering. And I did the only thing I knew might make him feel better. I crawled into bed and hugged him as tight as I could, stroked his hair and told him that we loved him and that he wasn't alone. I could not stop my tears from flowing as I imagined to hurt that his heart was feeling, but in an instant his eyes were closed and his breathing was regular.
And like that, the first day of track in was over. Three boys were sleeping. And two parents are still standing here, scratching their heads... wondering if they handled this situation the right way, wondering if Luke will gain some confidence to walk away, and hoping that he is happier tomorrow.