Sticks and Stones
Last time I wrote about this I was all for letting the kids address the name calling and work it out themselves (with a little coaching and encouragement from me), since ultimately that will be what has to happen in the real world.
However, my middle son came home with hurt feelings too many days this week. Apparently the name calling has escalated from the typical “jerk,” and “weirdo” to “fat” and “wide.” My son is off-the-charts large for his age, which has proven to be an asset in sports, particular basketball, and hopefully will be in football next fall, but I wouldn’t call him fat. Nor would his pediatrician.
My mama-bear instinct emerged: I will do anything it takes to protect my young. However, one of the things sets people apart from animals is that we are able to think and reason in order to solve problems in a civilized manner, so I knew I needed to do just that. To be empathetic. To be compassionate. To look at the whole situation.
My son admitted that he had called names back, in retaliation. Additionally, I know he tends to adopt the “class clown” mentality thus by “laughing it off,” may have been unknowingly condoning the behavior.
I thought back to my own childhood. Kids call each other names, give each other nicknames. I wondered if its just a natural rite of passage of childhood? But if that’s the case, does the hurt go away when we grow up? Or do we still remember that elementary school nickname. I know I still remember my high school nickname, and my brother’s, and cringe at the thought. I bet my brother does, too. Oftentimes nicknames can be embarassing or downright hurtful. Where should the line be drawn?
I decided yesterday it should be drawn right then and there, before anything escalated further. Before anyone made a threat, made physical contact, or used “sticks and stones” — the kinds of behavior that would not only cause more hurt feelings, but possibly bodily injury or being kicked off the bus or suspended.
Since my son had said it was okay for me to handle it, I did. I wrote the bus driver a note, just to let her know what was going on and let her know my son and I would be discussing strategies about how to deal with it. I asked her to keep an ear open for it, since I am sure most name calling happens under the radar. I wrote short emails to two of the other parents. I was hesitant, because it’s a touchy subject and I didn’t want to cast blame.
Because my oldest had a playdate yesterday, I had one-one-one time with my middle son while their younger brother was still at preschool extended day. Some of the strategies we talked about involved my son just sitting with other kids, or sitting with his brother.
He told me he liks his friends, and he just wishes they would stop calling him names, especially one kid in particular, who he thought would laugh at him if he told him “it’s not cool to call me names.” I asked him, “If he did that, is he really your friend?”
Later, that particular friend’s mom called me and we had a positive and productive conversation. She told me her son was very upset about things and she wanted him to talk to my son and me. My son declined, since he’s not much of a phone person, and said he’d talk with him on the bus. I did speak to the boy and then relayed the message to my son that he’s sorry and didn’t realize he was hurting feelings.
My son was relieved. He told me he had thought his friend considered him a loser. My heart broke to hear him say that and I embraced him in a big mama-bear hug.
Names do hurt.