For the last few years, I have started the New Year’s off with a cleanse. I find it a great way to purge my body physically and mentally of not only the fatty foods, sugars and alcohol consumed for several weeks straight, but also the stress and changes of the past year. A way for me to shed my skin, so to speak, and start fresh. The rough part is that the beginning always makes me sluggish. I guess detoxing out the impurities of the year before can wreck havoc on your system. Needelsstosay, I felt uninspired to write yesterday because of it. And though, it is totally mind over matter, my physical body was taking over my mental state too much. As a writer, inspiration is key to writing a great piece. Thus, the challenge begins today!
My daughter came home from school yesterday, and at first she seemed fine, but as the day went on I could tell something was bothering her. After a few hours of my attention being focused on the boys, we were sitting at the table together while she was painting, and the babies were sleeping. She finally said to me, “Mommy, I have to tell you something that happened to me today.” I knew this was my chance to be a good listener for her, to create a safe space where she would want to come to me all the time. I checked myself to make sure there was no judgement, just listening, so I would be able to respond intelligently and profoundly. (As a side note, amazing how she identified the moment that I was actually present with her so she could have a conversation with me.)
“OK, what is it?” I asked waiting anxiously to get to be this amazing person for her.
“Someone in my class farted. It wasn’t me, and this boy in my class told everyone it was, and they all laughed at me.”
Immediately I found myself judging, protecting, and wanting to knock this little boy out. How could someone do this to MY daughter? Who is this kid? What’s wrong with his parents? Don’t they teach him to be polite and respectful and that he should work with his peers as a team so they all feel supported and loved? Profound my ass! I was full of blame and judgement. I had allowed the emotion of the situation to take over and control my thoughts and actions, afterall, this was my little girl and her feelings we were talking about, but I knew this was not the way to handle it. My intention is to create a world full of possibility for my children through my choice of language. I knew I had to carefully select my words so she could work through the emotion. At the same time, teach her about the things I had hoped the parent of this kid had taught him. I also felt it important to create that safe space within the family, not just with me. What if I wasn’t available to her, who would she go to? I want her to know that her family is there for her, not just her mommy.
Identify the issues.
1. Lack of Integrity & Support. It wasn’t about this kid. I cannot control his thoughts, actions or words. What I can do is talk to my daughter about how this incident made her feel. I wanted her to know that integrity is a foundation for who we are. And when someone challenges our integrity, it’s necessary to take a stand for it. In her case, being accused of something she did not do made her feel confused as she is still needing and wanting to be liked and accepted by her peers. We brought attention to her emotions at the time. She was embarrassed, she felt let down by her classmates and unsupported by her friends. In her words, “Sad. Everyone laughed at me and nobody likes me.” She does have a flair for the dramatics, so then we had to go back and dissect “everybody” and “nobody”. I asked her about specific friends and what they did when it happened. Turns out, that her buddies didn’t laugh, and everyone went about playing right afterwards.
2. Lack of Accountability. Unfortunately, the teacher mistook who was at fault for starting all this commotion and had another little boy apologize. This also upset my daughter because the kid who started it wasn’t being held accountable for his actions.
3. Lack of Compassion. I suggested that one way to not be laughed at is to laugh with them. But sometimes we are not strong enough to let our ego go, especially when you are 4 years old. So we talked about why people do things like that. They need attention, are jealous, insecure…but again, we don’t always know what motivates others, and this could also be mistaken for being judgemental. I had to sleep on it. And maybe she didn’t really need any words from me other than, “I love you,” and a big hug. We just let it be.
This morning, though, I couldn’t just let her go to school with unresolved issues. How did I know they were unresolved? She got angry at her brother, slugged him and locked herself in the bathroom chanting, once again, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me.” Her brother, not knowing what had happened yesterday, looked at me in bewilderment. I told him what happened, not sure if it should come from me or not. I took the chance as my goal is to get them to do it on their own one day, but I think they need the coaxing now to learn that. Of course, at first he laughed, then we talked about offering her encouragement and advice. He is such a sincere and thoughtful kid. He finished getting dressed, and at breakfast, brought up the incident. She was embarrassed again, but we talked about it as a family.
We don’t always have to right words to say, but sometimes just having a conversation around situations helps to make them feel less intense, less serious. Sometimes, bringing others into the conversation brings about ideas and different ways of learning, new perspectives, discovering what they would do. Discussing actions and consequences. It was a simple conversation, yet I think she was beginning to feel more confident about it.
Finally, I wanted to leave “food for thought” in thier minds pointing out to her that in life, this stuff happens all the time. “When you were little, this happened to you?”
“Well, yes, and it even happens as an adult,” and my children thought that was hysterical because they thought I was referring to being accused of passing gas in public places at the age of 35. But getting back to my point, that I wanted them both to know that these things happen in life, and it’s how we choose to handle these situations that makes us better, stronger and smarter. That these moments do not need to define who we are as long as we don’t let them.
Before she left, I wanted to point out the items of importance to her.
- My son reminded her that not all of her friends laughed at her. (Support Group)
- She restated that she wasn’t the one who did it. (Integrity)
- She wanted to talk to the teacher about acknowledging the person responsible for this fiasco. (Accountability)
- I asked both her and my son, now that they know how this would make a person feel, what actions will they take the next time something like this happens to someone else. (Consequences/Actions/Compassion)
As I ponder these deep thoughts over my green tea this morning, my husband walks into the room to report his discussion with the teacher. His take is way less detailed than mine, as he tells me that her class has 13 boys in it and 3 girls. Farting is way more fun and less serious to boys than girls, so she probably took it more personal. I think back to the conversation at breakfast this morning, and remember my son saying, “What? It’s just a fart. I fart like 20 times a day in class.” And I have to laugh because it’s so true. What was dragged out into a two day conversation about emotions and feelings and how to deal with these situations with my daughter was a conversation handled in 20 secon
ds with my son. To her it was the end of her world. To him, it was just a fart.
In the end, it was a great opportunity to challenge myself. I saw an opportunity for them to learn compassion, accountability, and integrity. I don’t know if I am doing this right, but I’m taking the chance. It’s amazing how a little thing like a fart can offer a ton of learning.
The Twin Coach said:
I just love this post for so many reasons. I love how present you are with your kids and especially with your daughter when she needed you. The way you break down the categories in which she needs connection and support is so helpful other parents (ie: me) and I especially love the sum up because it is such a clear picture of the difference between boy & girls, men & women: women are so much about talk & feelings, men are so much about action. Love your son's quote. Hilarious. Thanks for this!