Raising children is no joke. It’s not easy. There is no right way to do it and there is no absolute assurance of the long term outcome. Your child will eventually make their own decisions and sometimes those decisions will be bad ones that result in negative consequences. If you are lucky those are imposed by you rather than society (the cops) or the universe (death.)
All mothers worry. That’s normal. I worry if the girls will grow up to be good people. I worry if they will kind. I worry if they will be honest. I worry if they will be compassionate. I worry about the future of their surroundings. I worry about the friends they will make and the influences they will have. I worry about the moment that I lose the control over all those factors. In reality, I already have. Lydia goes to preschool. She attends 3 days a week for half of the day. A seemingly minimal amount of time, but in this time she has interactions with other children. That is the goal of course that she will become socialized. Sometimes she comes home telling us all sorts of stories about the inner-workings of their tiny social groups. Her closest 3 girls friends are a team (her term not mine.) The other day she reported that her team didn’t like the other team because they were friends with boys (as known as the enemy.)
We asked a few questions to clarify. We have repeatedly talked about the equality of boys and girls in our house mostly because instead of having some sort of submissive or latent girl insecurity my daughter believes that boys are beneath her and are not as capable as girls. And honestly I work hard on not destroying these feelings of confidence and assertiveness that are always at the forefront her nature, but we do talk often that all people are able to do things they chose. Boys can dance. Boys can play dress up. Boys can color. All of which is unsure of is true.
A few days later she reported that her team was better than the other team, and as a result she said a girl spit on another person to prove it. The flags were flying up faster than I could put the words together. None of these behaviors are appropriate to us for any reason, so the conversation began and continue throughout the evening. It turns out that she used the term better instead of saying that they were good at following directions. We are better because we listen to the teacher. We are better because we cleaned up after crafts. We are better because we ate our whole snack. In another turn of events, no one spit intentionally on anyone either. Her friend sneezed while having milk in her mouth and spit on someone accidentally, but on the surface these initial reports her disturbing.
As we decoded the actual events of the day, I wondered if we would need to go and talk to the teacher. Make sure these girls were split up or given consequences for early mean girl tendencies. Then I realized that it is now where my parenting would be put to the test. Should I intervene or should I allow her to develop her own voice?
A girlfriend had told me a story about receiving a phone call from a mother in her son’s class. Both kids are in the sports club after school. The mother called to tell my friend that her son, which towers over most other children in the class, was upset because her son kept hitting him in the head with the ball. It turns out the kids were playing dodge ball, where of course the purpose is to hit each other with the ball. When she told me that story I was literally rolling my eyes along with her. It’s absurd that the boy felt compelled to go home, complain to his mom, and the mom then in turn fought that battle for him by my calling my friend. To me that is the perfect opportunity to each your child to stand up for himself. He should speak up and say “Hey! Don’t hit me in the head!” and or he should learn how to dodge the ball since it’s the objective of the game. We must empower our children to have their own voice.
I will not always be present to fight Lydia’s battles and make her choices. She must have a clear understanding of what we as a family value and she must learn to fight for it. With this story in mind and her friend situation at school, we took turns talking to her about kindness, compassion, inclusion, equality and respect. We read stories about it. We modeled it through play. We prayed for it together before going to bed. Perhaps it is overkill, but sometimes we do things as parents because it makes us feel better on this journey to help our kids be good people.