Posts Tagged With: School

Sticks and Stones–Bullying and What We Can Do to Help

My first grader came home from school the other day to tell me about a boy who hasn’t been very nice. “He doesn’t want to be my friend, Mom. I was trying to be his, but he doesn’t want to. He never wants to pass the frisbee to me. He just isn’t nice to me and I don’t know why.” My heart broke. I’m pretty sure I held back tears as I thought about what a tough world he was now a part of. And then a moment came to my mind from many years ago. A day that I probably had filed in the back of my mind to be forgotten. But as we walked up our driveway, the thoughts came flooding back.

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I can remember the moment vividly. I was a senior that year, and my assigned seat in Mr. M’s class was just a few back from her and her friends. In front of her sat a larger guy, someone I guess you wouldn’t call “cool.” In fact, to put it bluntly, he was a geek. He had bottle cap glasses, pimples, his clothes were old and baggy, and he ate lunch at that one spot in the commons area with all the other dorky kids. I don’t remember his name, but I certainly remember hers. Everyone knew her name. She was one of the most popular girls in school. Pretty, athletic…she was what every girl wanted to be, who every boy wanted to be with. As Mr. M wrote on the board the room was silent with scribbling pencils. Just ahead, I saw her pull out a quarter. Getting the attention of her friends, she smiled and leaned forward in her desk. In front of her, his pants opened like a plumber’s, giving just enough space for a quarter to slip through. Her friends stifled laughs as the quarter dropped from her fingers. His head jerked up. As he ran to the bathroom to retrieve the object now located in his britches, she smirked as several laughed at his expense.

And life went on. The boy was humiliated, the girl got a good laugh, the cycle continued. No one stood up. Not a classmate, not a parent, not a teacher.

Even while writing this my heart races with the memories of those days. Honestly, I was just a bit scared of her. Of all of them. And so I kept my thoughts to myself. If only I could go back. If only I had the courage in those days to stand up for those who were torn down. If only I’d put myself in the lines of fire to save someone else’s self-esteem, image, and heartache.

…But I didn’t.

Maybe by watching and not doing anything My lack of action was just as bad as what they had done.

“When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple.”

–Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I have no idea what the answer is. Listening to my little boy broke my heart, and I desperately wish I had an answer. But the more the story brewed in my mind, I did have a few thoughts. Maybe we can still change the tides of bullying. It’s worth a shot.

  • How do we talk about others in front of our children? They listen even when we don’t think they are.
  • Do we show them courage by standing up to others who rip those less fortunate (or more, jealousy is a strong emotion) down with gossip?
  • Do we actively encourage our kids to treat others with kindness and respect? And do we show them every day how that looks in our interactions with friends, family and strangers alike?
  • Do we happily serve others and encourage our kids to do the same?
  • Do we encourage our children to play with others who are different from them and encourage them to include those who aren’t being included?

I’m only a mom to small children. I know the teenage years will prove to be much more difficult in these regards. But maybe if we start now. Maybe if we try to teach them while they’re young, it will stick. And maybe it won’t, but it’s worth a shot.

IMGP0419Looking back, I struggled with situations like these, not so much because of the girls who thought others were less than them, but because the adults around us didn’t seem to notice or care. In some ways it was even encouraged, without them knowing, of course. It was discouraging as a kid, and now as an adult I continue to watch it from this side of life. A bully doesn’t always attack with fists. In a majority of situations, bullies attack with word and deed. And they hurt. These predators are often charming, charismatic, lovable, pretty or handsome, seem to be well-liked, athletic, and smart. But what they do to classmates “less” than them is devastating. If we as adults joke around with them, put them on a pedestal and treat them as if they were high and mighty, try to be their friend, and laugh at their seemingly harmless jokes, the cycle will continue. Do we really want that?

We don’t have to be mean. We don’t have to stop treating them with respect and kindness. But let’s try to be more watchful. Let’s try to bring those up that otherwise might find themselves down. We must be conscientious of how we treat all children, charming, funny, cute…or not.

I wish I knew the answers. I wish I could go back and stand up for others instead of idly standing by. I wish I could change unkind words I have said in the past to and about others. I wish I could protect my son from those boys and girls that don’t want to be his friend and who don’t want to be kind. I wish so many things, but for now I will hope that we can encourage our children and do better ourselves. Let’s stop the bullying, no matter how old we happen to be.

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A great 10 minute video. Definitely worth the watch!

Bullying–Stop It by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

And here’s just the talk:

The Merciful Obtain Mercy

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Categories: parenthood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Chase is On…(Helping My Boys *Eventually* Navigate the World of Girls)

This year was certain to be different. As my six-year-old son climbed those big bus steps and waved goodbye, I couldn’t help but think he looked so grown-up. His first time at school ALL day, first time eating lunch in the cafeteria, first time riding the bus to and from school…First grade certainly would be a year of firsts. The youngest boys and I anxiously waited for him to come home. Afternoon seemed to take forever to arrive, and by noon M had asked me at least a dozen times when school would be done. Finally it was time. With a big grin on his face, R raced up our driveway.

As we sat outside eating cookies, In typical motherly fashion I bombarded him with the string of questions that had been flooding my mind all day. “So buddy, who do you sit by? Did you go to PE? Is your teacher nice? Did you make any new friends? Who’d you ride with on the bus? Did you remember to thank the bus driver? Did you read any books? What’d you do at recess?” In typical first grade boy fashion, he responded, “Andrew. Yep. She’s nice. Yep. Tyler. Yep. Yep. Played soccer.” And continued chowing down on his cookie. Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to coax much out of him while cookies were around, I gave it a rest. Not a few minutes later, he added, “Oh, and at lunch recess the girls chased us around. They were trying to kiss us, Mom! But don’t worry. I ran too fast for them. I bet we’ll have to do that a lot this year.”

When he told me that, this is what I saw in my mind...

When he told me that, this is what I saw in my mind…

...But I'm afraid this is reality. When did this happen???

…But I’m afraid this is reality. When did this happen???

Kindergarten year was a unique one for R. By the last month of school, his class only consisted of six kids. Five boys and one girl. It started out with 12 (still only one girl), but slowly dwindled down. GIRLS. That would be a new dynamic this year I hadn’t even considered.

When my husband got home from work that night and the boys were all asleep, I told him what R had done at recess. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “I remember that game in elementary school. That was fun.” I gave him a death stare. “Hey, I always ran fast enough to keep away! You mean you didn’t play that? I thought everyone played it.” Our first grade boy was being chased by girls to get kissed, and apparently I wasn’t cool enough to chase the boys when I was a kid. This was devastating news to a mom of three boys. Girls? First grade?? That cutesy little chant, “…so-and-so and what’s her name, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.” came into my mind. My son was running away from girls, and according to my husband it was totally normal.

Before I sound like a lunatic mother with a little cootie-phobia, Let me clarify. Of course I wasn’t afraid of my son getting caught and kissed. He’s pretty darn fast, even I can hardly catch him! Ok, ok. And I suppose a little peck on the playground in first grade doesn’t exactly spell out matrimony. But suddenly in my mind I was imagining a little boy ten years older taking a girl on his first date. Eight years after that bringing a girl home from college to “meet the parents,” and only a matter of time before a full blown wedding would be planned. Whew! Those years sure flew by in my mind! Playing chase on the playground, simply the beginning.

As my husband and I brushed our teeth that night, I concocted a plan. We have so many friends with adorable little girls. How about an arranged marriage? It worked wonders for so many of my husband’s co-workers from other countries. Why not give it a try? My husband was less than keen on that idea. Since that was out, I was left with only one option. Let my boys make their own decisions and teach them to be good kids the best I can. Darn. I still kinda like the arranged marriage idea (any takers?? 🙂 ).

I remember coming home from college and going on walks with my mom. We’d come to a piece of garbage on the ground, and every time my mom would pick it up and say, “Chelsi, a nice boy would never throw garbage on the ground.” She’d then always add, “and when you meet someone you think might be the one, watch how he treats his mom, because that’s important. That’s very possibly how he will treat you. Does he put the cart back into the cart spot at the grocery store? Does he listen to what you have to say? Can you talk to him?” Those words of advice stuck with me, and when I found my husband, I was pleased to be able to say yes to every one on my mom’s list, plus so much more.
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So, my boys, though you won’t need this list for many, many years, here’s your mother’s two cents of what I hope you can remember when the girls are doing a bit more than chasing you on the playground.

How does she talk not only to, but also about her family? Does she speak of them kindly?

Does she have good spending habits? Is she wise with her money?

Does she have a healthy view of her body and appearance?

Does she listen?

Similar interests?

How does she treat the waiter/waitress? Is she kind to others?

Does she return the grocery cart to the appropriate spot?

For now I will just try to teach my boys and help them to develop good habits that will attract a kind, considerate, happy girl. I’ll do my very best to teach them that garbage always goes in the garbage can, carts should never be left anywhere but the appropriate “cart designated” spots, and people should always be treated with respect, especially women and girls. I’ll try to help them to be good listeners, that potty talk is incredibly unattractive, and to chew with their mouths closed. And for now, I’ll remind my sons to run as fast as they can and try not to let those girls catch them!

I'm afraid my boys will forever be in my mind as this...

I’m afraid my boys will forever be in my mind as this…

...and this...

…and this…

...and this. Just sweet, little boys. Always little. Maybe that's just the way a mom's mind works.

…and this. Just sweet, little boys. Always little. Maybe that’s just the way a mom’s mind works.

Moms of those sweet little girls, I promise to do my best at raising sons worthy of your daughters. Will you do the same? And 20 years from now we can both be thrilled that they have found each other.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Our Most Precious Commodity (a thank you to teachers everywhere)

Nine months ago I held my little five-year-old’s hand and led him up the stairs to a new phase of life. I squeezed it tight and held my breath, because secretly I was just as nervous as he was. His Thomas the Train backpack bounced full of glue, crayons and erasers with each step. Was he really old enough for this? He suddenly seemed so small! Was ready for this? I certainly didn’t feel like it. I gave him one last long hug and watched as he disappeared behind the kindergarten door. Books lined the wall, the letters of his name already  printed across the desk on a colorful tag. I left him that day as a shy, timid, scared little boy without anyone he knew and in an entirely new world he’d never experienced.

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As I waited by that same kindergarten door nine months later, I could hear that little five-year-old voice chatting with his friends about the spider trap they’d made on the playground and how today would be the lucky day that they’d get something good (they had bated it with some nice, fat, dead flies they’d found, so of course they had high hopes! Oh, the joys of having boys). I could hear his teacher calling them to the rug for last minute directions before they walked out the door for the summer. The walls that had over the past nine months been covered in pictures and stories written and illustrated by those young and aspiring authors and artists were now bare. As we walked to the car I held that same boy’s hand, but he wasn’t the same little one I’d kissed goodbye months before. He’d grown. He’d made friends, learned how to read,  found confidence, bravery, and strength. Something magical happened in those nine short months.

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As we walked to the car, we passed the buses full of students anxious to get home and celebrate the beginning of their three-month break. The sidewalk was filled with teachers waving and jumping at the children they’d just spent the last school year thinking about, planning for, stressing over, helping, teaching, and loving. Hands waved back from inside the buses, and, I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed as I looked on. I cried because THIS was the magic I witnessed every day for the past nine months. A teacher that cared. Who saw my shy, quiet, timid boy as so much more, and helped him find his confidence, unleash his creativity, and fed his desire to learn. But she didn’t do it just for my son, she did it for all that walked through her welcoming kindergarten doors each week. Each one came out of her class that final day as more than a first-grader. They walked with friends, a backpack full of stories, journals, pictures, and crafts, minds brimming with knowledge, a hunger to learn, tenacity, spunk, and spirit. Can you really put a number on that?

Each year we send our most precious commodity behind those brick walls. We expect them to walk out each day loved, mentally nourished, disciplined, and emotionally cared for. We expect them to succeed, to grow, and to learn life skills. Teachers may have summers off, weekends to rejuvenate, fall, winter and spring break to relax, but for nine months they dedicate their lives to our most precious commodity. They think about them tirelessly. They spend many sleepless nights fretting over lesson plans, grading papers, furthering their own knowledge in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom, and just plain worrying about our kids (probably this more than anything else!). For nine months we trust our loved ones in their care, and they know it. Time and time again they rise to the occasion, often without the help and support of those that should be backing them every step of the way.

I’m sure we can all look back on our years within those classroom walls and think of at least one teacher that touched our lives. That changed us for the better, that believed in us, trusted us, read to us, taught us and loved us. Are they not heroes? Did they not leave this world a better place by the hundreds of little humans they taught? For my son, his teacher changed his short, little life. She gave him the wonderful gift of a love for learning. She boosted his self-confidence, helped him see his potential, and gave him a solid foundation that will benefit him for years to come. She put up with his five-year-old goofiness and that of his classmates (which, I can testify, can be a bit overwhelming at times!). I can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts on behalf of my child.

Teachers are simply amazing. Our children are the future, and they, along with parents, are shaping them, molding them, and loving them into what they must become. Is there a more important work than that? To all those that educate and love our children, thank you. You do so much for so little. You really and truly are heroes.

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I owe a thanks to good old Pinterest for the apple idea (craftgawker.com), but the rest were different things that represented highlights from R’s year with his awesome teacher. I thought it turned out kinda cute! Gummy worms=learning about worms, packets of flower seeds=growing plants, balls=motion, granola bars=snack time, monkey stickers=recess, chocolate balls=shapes, Pete The Cat Old MacDonald book=field trip to the farm, plastic fish=learning about fish.

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What teacher has touched your life and helped you become who you are today?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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