Even though I have a solid four years of parenting under my belt, I have yet to come anywhere close to expert status. I always secretly giggle when my girlfriends ask me for parenting advice because OMG... you must be desperate if you're asking me. Did you know that my girls think that drip drying is an acceptable form of hygiene?
Seriously....I'm 37 with two kids and still have no idea what the hell I'm doing most days. But, hey the kids are still alive and they're happy at least 49 percent of the time, so I'm either doing something right or just know how to polish a turd when I see it. For example, did you know that there are children out there in the world who don't know the genius of hot dogs in their Mac & Cheese.... because their mothers feed them vegetables and other unprocessed foods? I feel bad for those kids... I really do.
And, yes... I tend to brag up my parenting swagger by letting my Facebook friends know that my child used the term "F*ck *t" and that I will soon be teaching her the other F-word: F*m*n*sm.
But the truth is, I still need help every now and then. That's where you
You... reading this bit of nonsense right now and chuckling about what it must be like to have me as a mother. You... the one who NEVER leaves a comment because you don't want to mess with your "lurker" status. You... the one who comes up to me on the street and says: "Hey-o! Loved your post about your little girl pooping in bed and sleeping next to it!"
. Pony up, sweetheart. We need all hands on deck for this one.
On the way home from school a couple of weeks ago, The Bird mentioned that a little boy in her class punched her in the stomach. Since, I hadn't received a note and The Bird has been known to leave out pertinent facts (not on purpose, just because she's 4)
, I talked with the teacher about in the next day. Turns out, she had been punched, but the teacher on duty was a sub and hadn't thought to write a note to explain what happened. This particular little boy... Oy. Vey. It didn't surprise me that he was the culprit. But, it seemed like an isolated incident and it was handled by the teacher and the executive director of the center, so I didn't worry too much about it.
Cut to Thursday when I got a note from the teacher stating that The Bird had been punched in the stomach by another little boy (we'll call him Jerkface because HE IS)
, and well... two times in two weeks and Mama is NOT pleased.
"So, why did he punch you in the stomach?"
"Because he was killing an earwig and I kept telling him not to kill it and he didn't like what I was saying so he punched me in the stomach!"
"Yes... it made me cry."
"Did you tell teacher?"
"What did she do?"
"She made him go sit on this beach towel."
Just as a point of reference, if you ever hear me saying "Hmmmmm...", you should probably back away slowly. Because when I say "Hmmmmm..." that means I'm about to say or do something that could prevent me from ever holding public office. In the past, "Hmmmmm" has immediately preceded the following statements:
- This bar will never even notice if we take this glass home with us. Look how pretty it is!
- What's the harm in saran wrapping those cars together?
- I say we drink some more margarita's.
- That weirdly shaped apple looks like a butt. I'm going to take a picture and post it online.
- There's a real genius to Baby Got Back.
- Let's go up to the most conservative boy in school and grind on him at the school dance while "Shoop" is playing. Bonus points because he's the principal's son.
- You know what... that Spanish teacher is about to have a nervous breakdown. We should TOTALLY set her desk on fire.
This particular "Hmmmmm..." immediately preceded me asking:
"Bird... are you bigger than Jerkface?"
"He punches you again, you push him down and stand over him like you're
freakin' Lara Croft and tell him to NEVER touch you again. And if he tries to stand up, you step on him and tell him to stay down or you will END him."
I went for a swim that night and had a long talk with myself about advocating violence against a 4-year-old. It wasn't my best moment as a
human being, I admit it. But I never actually said those words out loud to her. Partly because you don't teach that violence isn't acceptable.... by advocating violence. But mostly because I knew if I did and the teacher asked her why she pushed him down, she would totally rat me out.
The overall problem as I see it is NOT that the boy punched her. It's about how she is expected to react to being punched that bothers me. I'm all for non-violence and no hitting and using our words and walking away, but what if that doesn't work? What if you're now a target and a victim? There are many things I expect my girls to be. A victim is nowhere on that list. There is a fine line between teaching your daughter to stand up for herself and advocating violence... and it's not an easy line to walk.
I struggle with the idea that the teacher has to handle the situation, when my daughter could and should be the one to handle it. We should be teaching our children - especially our daughters - that they should have an expectation of how others treat them. And sure... I get that he's 4. And his parents haven't taught him better. And he has three older brothers and that's just how they are... rough and tumble. I get it.
But, why is that an excuse to physically harm my
daughter and she not be able to do anything about it other than cry and run to teacher? Why in society do we teach our girls to let someone else handle it? What is wrong with telling her to stand up for herself when someone hurts her? This little boy may never change, but I don't believe the right answer for my daughter is just to avoid him. I suspect that would make it worse and that's not how real life works. And I wonder if parents of little boys would tell their sons to let teacher handle it if their son was the one who received the punch... or two punches in two weeks. Or... if perhaps they would tell him what I wanted to tell The Bird: Anyone punches you, you push them down and make sure they know that YOU are not to be messed with. Capisce?
Of course, if she handles it on her own, she runs the risk of getting a rep. Which is sad. It just seems as though we are teaching our girls that they need to have someone else stand up for them, fight their fights and deal with their issues. Which makes the feminist in me bleed from her ears. We should expect more from our daughters than running to tell teacher if someone hurts them. We should empower them the way our sons are empowered. I certainly don't want her in a fight, but I sure as hell want her to know how to defend herself in a fight if need be.
Again, I'm not advocating violence, per se. But it seems like if they're both 4-years-old, it's a fair fight. And if he's smaller than her and she puts him in his place, maybe he'll be better at picking his fights. And if The Bird learns how to stand up for herself now, and not be cowed by someone else who is willing to hit her because he can get away with it (because, honestly... at the end of the day, he had to go to timeout? please. he learned NOTHING from that. and he'll do it again)
, then maybe she'll know how to stand up for herself when someone else tries to hurt her. Maybe in a year. Maybe in high school. But she'll know that she deserves to be treated with more respect. Will inaction on this lead her to believe that if someone doesn't like what she's saying or doing, it's okay for them to hit her?
BECAUSE. IT'S. NOT.
We don't hit in our home. That's not how we communicate. We use our words and/or have a meltdown and have to go to our bedroom and cry it out.
But enough of how I communicate....
I'm sure there are some parents out there reading this thinking: "Dude... chill out, Mama. It was just a punch and it's part of growing up."
And trust me, I've wrestled with the idea that maybe I've let this get me too worked up. But what I see is more than a punch. So much more.
When I spoke with one of the wonderful women who run the day care about this, she asked what I would do if I saw a little boy punch one of my girls on the playground. Would I run up to them and stop it and comfort my daughter? Or would I be okay with her slugging him back? It's possible she now thinks less of me because I responded that I'd let them fight it out. At least for a little bit. But I've always been a little more fight, less flight.
How would you advise your child in a similar situation?