When I went to the Bon Jovi concert last week, it was with a friend of mine. It was almost time for her to arrive at the house, and I ran upstairs to grab something quickly. When I came back downstairs, the kids were in the backyard. Nick was jumping on the trampoline and my friend Beth was holding Madeline.
“Nick, do you know who this is?” I asked, pointing to Beth.
He looked up and said no.
Beth laughed. Nick met her once last Spring at a farmer’s market meet-up. Madeline, who was firmly ensconced in Beth’s arms with her little legs wrapped tightly around Beth’s waist, was sleeping that day, so technically she’s never seen Beth in her life.
I tell you this to prove a point. My kids believe people are good. As they should. Nick knew she was due to arrive in a few minutes, she knocked on the door, he let her in and mere seconds later, the kids had her knee-deep in backyard fun. They basically had no idea who she was. But they still believe all people are good. Why wouldn’t they let her in? When I try to explain why we have things like locks, alarms and don’t open doors for strangers, I get quizzical looks. As in … why would someone be bad? On purpose? They don’t understand any other way. I love that about them. I love the innocence of children. And I hate when things get in the way of that.
Last week, Nick was being bullied at school. The kid who was picking on him seems to pick a “kid for the day.” It’s been Nick’s turn before, on and off throughout the school year, but for the most part, he has ignored it and lets it go. He is very laid-back and easygoing like that. Last week though, when I picked him up from school one afternoon, he was in tears and was upset enough that he asked me to intervene this time. And I did. How could I not? I do believe that there are some things that kids need to work out on their own and I can’t handhold them every step of the way, and since during the previous instances, he hasn’t asked for help once, I know that he has taken that lesson to heart. But to see him break down, well, it just breaks my heart.
I happened to put a Facebook status update later that day about not being a fan of bullies, and was surprised by how many people chimed in (both there and with personal notes later) with their own story of their kids’ being picked on as well. It makes me sad. Going through school is hard enough with its many twists and turns for kids to navigate, but to have to deal with a bully is just terrible.
For me, it comes down to accountability. There are so many lessons for our children here. We need to give them the tools to be able to effectively handle problems on their own. And to give them the confidence to know that it’s ok to ask for help. And to give the help when needed. And to send a clear message that this behavior is unacceptable. ‘Tis quite the tall order to fill, but our kids are (or will be) better for it.
With this particular instance, Nick needed to see that I took him seriously, and that the other child’s behavior had to have some consequences. Although the story of the specific situation is a bit longer, suffice it to say that Nick was actually sticking up for the kid and got thrown under the bus and later taunted for doing so. How it’s all handled after the fact is just as big a lesson as teaching kids the proper way to treat others from the get-go. I spoke with his teacher, someone on the school board and then had several conversations with the other parent. It has been dealt with. We forgive. We move on.
There are a million things that my kids do to make me proud. Whether it’s Nick holding the door open for a complete stranger when we go into a store, or Madeline clearing the table after dinner without being asked, they are good kids. And believe in good. I am proud that he has handled the situation on his own so far, and am equally proud that he asked for help. It was my turn to show him that I took him seriously and could help him fix the problem. That everything would be ok. And that even good people, good kids, make mistakes.
Ignore the badly chipped manicure. Going tomorrow to rectify that. My favorite popsicles ever. The other day Nick asked why I liked them so much and I couldn’t land on one singular reason. Love the flavors. Love the patriotic colors. Love that they signal summer. Love. Love. Love.