Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Speaking Up

Wow, it's been an interesting week. And it's only Tuesday.

Dealing with yet another deep issue this week, so soon on the heels of the last one that I am looking around for the hidden camera to expose whoever is pranking me.

This week's issue: Speaking Up -- for those who can't

Yesterday, when I picked Monkey up from preschool, her teacher mentioned (in passing) that there was a "minor incident" with another child, and Monkey had been hit on the wrist with a stick. I was told she recovered fine but has had some rough moments during the day.

Monkey didn't want to talk about it.

That is NOT a good sign, because Monkey wants to talk about EVERYTHING. All. The. Time. From the texture of her poop to what unicorns eat to what our clothes might look like if we had tails, and everything in between.

But not this "incident."

I waited until we were safely ensconced in my car, set for our 28-minute drive home to gently ask her what it was that had happened.

Just this: "I had a bad day."

Ok... I tried again. "Bad, how? Like, you were feeling bad?"

She whispered, "yeah." But would not elaborate. So I turned on the radio and let her chill for a bit.

About ten minutes into the drive, she told me she got really upset. I asked why, but she wouldn't go there. All I got was, "I had bad thoughts...My heart was beating really fast and my stomach felt funny."

I asked if this had anything to do with whatever happened with the stick.

She mumbled, "yeah. But I don't want to talk about it right now."

I didn't want to push. I just told her that I loved her, and would listen to whatever she needed to say, whenever she wanted to say it-- and she could talk to me about ANYTHING, even if it's scary or she feels bad about something. She asked if we could just snuggle.

I told her once I was no longer driving, and we were home, ABSOLUTELY--we would snuggle.

She smiled a little, at least. Then MDDaddy called (I am LOVING the new car's Bluetooth capability!) with some news about the house hunt. I let him know Monkey had a rough day and we were planning to talk when we got home.

The older I get, the more wisdom I find in planning ahead for such things. I know I do better when I'm not totally blindsided by issues, so I am working to give MDD the same consideration. I feel like a total grownup. Also, it's just easier...plus, then you are less likely to forget about what it was you were supposed to talk about if at least the other adult in the house can remember you were going to talk about something. 

On our way into the house, Monk stopped me to warn that the entire patio around the back stoop was a total ice skating rink. I had to juggle all our stuff to shake out some salt from the spreader can we keep by the door. This polar vortex thing is REALLY starting to grate on my everlasting nerves, BTW. Old Man Winter needs a swift kick in the pants. 

We got inside and un-wintered ourselves and cuddled up in the big armchair. Per her request, I put on Animal Planet. It was that crazy treehouse show, which was a good distraction. At the first commercial break I asked gently if she wanted to talk about her day. Monkey said she wanted to wait until dinner so she could talk to Daddy and Mommy together.

Concerned, but trying not to show it, I agreed. I just hugged on her and felt her relax.

MDD came home, un-wintered himself and came straight to us. Enveloping us both in a giant hug, he asked our little one again what was going on. She shook her head and said she wanted to wait for dinner to talk.

He and I made eye contact.      NO. Now.

So I turned off the TV and he told her we were ready to listen.

She took a deep breath and said she had a REALLY BAD DAY.

So, here's the scoop:

Apparently, the classmate (we'll call her J) who we knew had hit her with the stick, had done some other stuff that made Monkey really upset and she hadn't known what to do.

The class is made up of about 20 kids, ages 3 to 5. Monkey is the oldest, and tallest, in the class this year. She takes that position as one of responsibility for the younger, littler kids.

So the issue started when they were getting ready to go outside to play in the snow. As you can imagine, even with one full time teacher and two to three student workers, corralling 20 preschoolers through a potty stop, hand washing, and then into winter gear (boots, snowpants, coats, hats, mittens) creates a considerable amount of chaos. Some kids REALLY take advantage of that.

Monkey was at the front of the room, waiting for the next step, when J started roughhousing with some of the three-year-olds. By her account, J was pushing them, nearly knocking some of them over.She's not a large kid, but definitely bigger than the three-year-olds. They weren't exactly crying, but they weren't comfortable, either. J laughed and put her hand over at least one kid's nose and mouth.

Monkey was really uncomfortable with that, and asked J to stop. She didn't.
That was what she said made her feel "all bad inside" and her stomach hurt.

I asked if she told a teacher. She said there were none around.

(Which may or may not be exactly true, though in that winter-gear chaos I can see how it might have seemed that way to Monkey.)

She said J got all sneer-y with her, and Monkey didn't know what else to do.

J has had a lot of other incidents where her temper has scared my child. She's kind of obnoxious in general and tends to lash out with her hands instead of talking things out. More than once, there have been issues where she's gotten physical with other kids, and even a couple times with Monkey. I recall one day where J had grabbed Monkey by the neck and squeezed. She got in trouble...but I don't see how that solved anything. The kid's still kind of wild in general.

They went outside, and Monkey said she just tried to stay away from J, but then "something else happened" and J wound up hitting her in the wrist with a stick.

This morning, I found out from the teacher about the "something else" that happened. 

Apparently, the kids were playing with shovels and clearing off the patio. Monkey threw some snow with her shovel that accidentally got J in the face. The teacher seemed sure it was an accident, and just wanted Monkey to check with J to tell J that and ask if she was OK. Monkey had seemed VERY reluctant to do so, and was really upset and sort of crying, just repeating it was an accident... 

Now we know why. She was afraid J would think it WAS on purpose, and she was ALREADY mad at Monkey for telling her what to do with the little kids. 

So Monkey did tell J she was sorry... and very shortly afterward, wound up getting hit with the stick.

The teacher said that "may or may not have been an accident." I stopped her there and said per my child, it was not, and in light of the rest of this story, I am pretty sure it was NOT an accident. 

In our discussion last night, Monkey was really confused and torn about all that had happened. She and J have a history of being "frenemies" and some of this stuff comes and goes with that kind of relationship. However, I was extremely concerned that per Monkey's account, not one of the teachers or student workers was aware of what had happened with the little kids.

I know she's only five.

I KNOW that.

But... she has a very strong, inherent sense of right and wrong, and she is very deeply troubled when others make bad choices. Especially when she cares about that person, and even super-more so when their bad choices could hurt someone else.

The biggest cause of her hurting belly was being torn between wanting to protect the littler kids, and being afraid of getting her frenemy in trouble... because she KNOWS that girl's temper.

It is a pretty scary concept to speak up for someone else when you know that means putting a big, red target on your OWN neck. Literally, in this case.

Even for adults, that is hard to do.

But I am proud that she WILL.

I think our job as parents is to encourage our children to be "THAT person"-- the one who speaks up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

The one who does the RIGHT thing...even if it's not the POPULAR thing.

The one who can be strong in themselves, showing love to others, as our faith calls us to do. Monkey has deeply integrated that into her decision-making process lately.

This was the first test of it, and she was really scared.

We told her we were proud of her for intervening, but that if she's afraid she needs to let the teacher know. She told me she HAS told the teachers before, and they don't really do anything.

We told her to keep telling US, then.

WE will listen.

WE will do something.

WE will always, ALWAYS support her in doing what she feels is right.


After our discussion, I wrote an email to Monkey's teachers to explain the rest of the incident, as relayed to us. I didn't cite it as sworn fact, because she is five, and this was told to us a good 5+ hours after it had happened. We weren't there and didn't SEE it go down. 

But what I do know is how my child FELT, and I asked the teachers to assist us as parents in figuring out what is going on here. The dynamic of this relationship is not sitting well with us, and we asked their support in finding a way to make adjustments. 

I spoke with one of the teachers this morning, as noted above. She assured me the two teachers would discuss the situation and pay close attention to what J was doing. She also agreed Monkey is far more mature than most of the other kids in the class, and as such, her ability to make "good" choices and lead by example can cause strife with the other children...especially those who are just not where she is, emotionally. 

So I feel a little better that at least we know the teachers are aware, and willing to look into this.

I have the feeling Monkey is on a path similar to mine. As a kid, I was also pretty certain what was right and wrong, and had little qualms making my own choices. It can be isolating. I SO don't want that for her... but I DO want her to stand up for her convictions and defend those who need it.

Honestly? I was not expecting such serious issues to come up so soon. This is like, junior high kind of stuff.

But as long as my child needs me, I will be in her corner with my last breath. I try to reel in the Mama Bear claws and let her figure some things out for herself...as long as she knows that she can always--


talk to her parents.


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